Xavier Wins Third Straight, Beats the Bonnies

Xavier won its third game in a row, knocking off St. Bonaventure 77-64 Saturday afternoon in front of a sold out crowd at the Cintas Center. The Musketeers employed the same type of intensity and focus that led them to a 28-point win Wednesday night over Duquesne.

Chris Mack's squad set the tone on both ends of the floor right away.

After Kenny Frease won the tip, Tu Holloway found his way inside the lane and finished through a foul to start the game off with an old fashioned 3-point play. On the defensive end, the Musketeers made the Bonnies move the ball around, and eventually forced a contested fading jumper from the corner with six seconds left on the shot clock. Lyons followed that with a quick three at the other end and just like that Xavier was up 6-0.

"I'm pleased with our defensive energy, especially early on. We held them to below 40 percent shooting, and tied a team on the glass that's a very good offensive and defensive rebounding team," Mack said after the game. "It starts with our defensive intensity, and if we do that, we'll be a hard team to guard in transition and we've gotten better even through our struggles of executing in the half court. Even out of timeouts we're getting buckets. First play of the game, something we drew up, Tu gets an and-one, so there's a little method to our madness."

At the first media timeout, Xavier led 10-4.

After his first three to open the game, Lyons stayed aggressive. He scored five straight points to push Xavier's lead to 15-6 before a Demetrius Conger dunk made it 15-8 at the second media timeout with 11:25 left.

Coming out of the second media timeout Xavier saw their lead evaporate as they went over four minutes following Lyons' last bucket without a field goal, and St. Bonaventure went on a quick 5-0 run immediately out of the timeout on a three from Chris Johnson and a pair of free-throws from Andrew Nicholson.

The Musketeers got a little breathing room on an effort play where Walker chased a long offensive rebound following a Holloway miss, and then Frease grabbed a second offensive board on a Redford miss from three. Frease found Walker streaking toward the basket for an easy layup. A Lyons three right after that pushed Xavier's lead to 20-13 heading into the under eight media timeout.

Another near four minute drought for the Musketeers' offense though, allowed the Bonnies to cut it to a one possession game again at 20-17 with 4:23 left to play.

Brad Redford answered with a big three from the corner on a nice pass from Walker. That sparked a 9-0 Muskie run. Charlon Kloof hit a jumper to interrupt Xavier's scoring barrage, but Redford answered that with his second three of the half. Wells then followed that up with a layup, before the Bonnies' star big man Andrew Nicholson dunked to end the first-half scoring.

Xavier took a 34-21 lead into the locker room after their 14-4 run to close the half.

Ask and answer threes by Kloof for St. Bonaventure and then Wells for Xavier right out of halftime kept the lead at 13. The teams continued to match field goals, but another three from Lyons gave the Musketeers a 14 point advantage by the first media timeout.

Lyons finished the game with 21 points, five assists and made 4-of-7 attempts from long distance.

"He's a difficult matchup," Mack said about his junior guard. "Mark's shot it well all year, and when he takes good shots his percentage is going to be 40-plus."

The Musketeers finished the game 8-of-16 from beyond the arc as a team for 50 percent. Pretty impressive for a team that is hitting just 33 percent for the season.

"I think the key to us, all of our threes, maybe with the exception of one or two early on, were really clean looks," Mack said. "They were line the seams up, sort of get a good bead on the rim, and that was all predicated by our ability to get in the lane. When we got into the lane, good things happened. When we're getting shots like that you've got to feel comfortable with Tu, Cheeks, and Brad knocking shots down."

A 9-0 Xavier run starting just inside the 13 minute mark gave the Muskies their biggest lead of the game at 57-35.

The Bonnies answered right back with a 9-0 run of their own behind seven free-throws, as Xavier went over two and a half minutes without scoring.

Holloway put Xavier up by 19 at the six minute mark with a 3-pointer from the corner opposite of Xavier's bench, but the Bonnies wouldn't go away. They put up another 7-0 run that forced Mack to call a timeout with 4:20 left to play and Xavier's lead at 12.

Mack's team responded out of the timeout with a pair of free-throws from Lyons and a Jeff Robinson layup.

Robinson put on a show in the closing minutes. After scoring just four points in the first 17 minutes of the game, Robinson went nuts scoring the Musketeers' final nine points, including a fadeaway jumper from the short corner with the shot clock expiring.

"He did a really good job," Mack said about Robinson after the game. "When he's on the floor for stretches at a time, he brings a tremendous offensive rebounding presence. He's really hard to block out because, I wouldn't call him quick, but he's not slow for his position. He's inspector gadget-like with his length. He does a good job of remembering and being disciplined to go on every shot and generally gets a hand on it or gets it. He's coming on late and it's as a result of his practice habits. He's been a really good practice player the last couple of weeks and he's earned the time he's getting now."

St. Bonaventure scored five straight points in the final 47 seconds following Xavier putting in substitutions to make the final score 77-64.

St. Bonaventure's standout big man, Andrew Nicholson, finished the game with 20 points and seven rebounds, but he also had five turnovers and scored a lot of his points in the second half with free-throws.

"In practice we just talked about crowding Nicholson and making sure that he either passed the ball out or didn't make the right plays," Robinson said. "I think tonight the guys did that. Whoever was guarding him played great post defense and everyone on the perimeter was crowding pretty well."

Other than Nicholson, nobody else scored in double-figures for the Bonnies. They shot just 39 percent, and made 5-of-18 3-point attempts for 27.8 percent.

After Lyons, Robinson was the next leading scorer for Xavier with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Holloway was also in double-figures with 12 points and Redford finished with 10 on 2-of-3 shooting from 3-point range.

This game marked the third straight contest that saw Brad hit at least two threes. He looked much more like the Redford of the past few years, then the Redford who has shot just 26 percent this year. There was no hesitation in his release and he was ready to fire from wherever.

"I've looked at the tapes a little bit, but it's more just been getting in the gym and trusting myself again on my shot," he said after the game about getting out of his slump. "Physically and mentally, I've had to get over some things, and I think I'm finally moving forward through that. I'm just doing my best to help this team off the bench."

The Musketeers did have to finish the game off without the services of their senior center. Frease rolled his right ankle when coming down with a rebound early in the first half. He played through it until halftime, but wasn't able to continue in the second half.

"It's fine. I don't have great information as of yet because it just happened," Mack said. "He didn't feel like he could go. Kenny's a tough kid. He's never been one to try and sit out if he's not playing well or anything like that. He'll get treatment tonight, he'll get treatment tomorrow and we'll see where he's at on Monday. Hopefully, he'll play on Wednesday."

Xavier takes on St. Joseph's at the Cintas Center Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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