Men's Basketball Downs Illinois 65-59

Justin Doellman scored 15 Points vs. the Illini.

Justin Doellman scored 15 Points vs. the Illini.

Dec. 29, 2006

Box Score |  Photo Gallery  | Notes and Quotes

CINCINNATI - Junior point guard Drew Lavender had his best game in a Xavier uniform and led the Xavier University men's basketball team past Illinois, 65-59, on Friday evening at U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati. With the win, the Musketeers improve to 9-4 on the season while the Fighting Illini slip to 12-3.

Lavender scored a Xavier career-best 17 points and was a rock-solid 9-of-11 from the free throw line. He also dished-out five assists and did not commit a single turnover in 36 minutes of action.

Senior forward Justin Doellman scored 15 points and classmate Justin Cage chipped in with 13 points and six rebounds. Senior Brandon Cole scored five points and snatched a team-high seven rebounds.

Xavier trailed 26-25 at intermission but recaptured the lead when Cage converted on a put-back in the first minute of the second stanza. XU would never trail again and jumped out to an 18-8 run over an 11-minute span to match its largest lead of the game, 53-41, after Lavender drained a free throw with 2:30 to go.

Doellman keyed the run with 10 points during the stretch, including six straight towards the end of the stretch.

Illinois would close to 56-50 after nailing a couple long 3-pointers but Xavier iced the game with 11 free throws in the final 2:30.

The Illini's rugged front line dominated the paint in the first half, out-scoring XU by a 14-8 count. However, Xavier toughened up in the second session and held a decisive 20-12 advantage in the paint.

Xavier took Lavender's lead and took exceptional care of the ball, committing only nine turnovers on the night. Conversely, XU forced Illinois into 17 miscues and held a 19-6 advantage in points off turnovers.

XU also owned the glass in the second half, out-rebounding UI 20-10.

Shaun Pruitt led the way for Illinois with 11 point and 11 rebounds.

The Musketeers stormed out of the gate seizing an 18-6 lead when Derrick Brown electrified the crowd with a fast break flush thanks to a steal and assist from Lavender.

The Musketeers went cold after that though and did not hit a field goal for the next 11:50. The Illini took advantage and sprinted out to a 20-5 run, taking a 26-23 lead after Trent Meacham drained a 3-pointer at the two-minute mark.

Lavender got XU back on track with a floater at the 40-second mark and Xavier went into the locker room trailing 26-25.

Xavier will return to action on Wednesday, January 3 when the team takes on Kansas State. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in U.S. Bank Arena and the contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.