Xavier knocks off No. 19 Memphis
No. 19 Memphis ran off one of the nation's longest winning streaks by dominating Conference USA. It couldn't survive a late out-of-league game.
Brad Redford hit a long 3-pointer that put Xavier back ahead after wasting a 13-point lead, and the short-handed Musketeers beat the Tigers 64-62 on Tuesday night, ending their 18-game winning streak.
From start to finish, it was something for Memphis (24-4) to forget fast.
''It was out of character,'' said Geron Johnson, who led the second-half comeback and scored 14 points. ''We had no intensity. We came in here thinking they'll roll over and we'll get our 19th straight win. It's not like that.''
The sluggish Tigers scored only 20 points in the first half, their lowest-scoring half of the season, and got dominated on the boards, ending a couple of notable streaks. Their 18-game winning streak was tied with Akron for longest in the nation.
Memphis also was the only Division I school that hadn't lost a road game this season. The Tigers had won 11 straight on the road overall, the nation's longest active streak.
''Eighteen in a row is not easy to do,'' said Josh Pastner, who was hoping for his 100th win as the Tigers' coach. ''You don't take it for granted. Long winning streaks, conference championships — those aren't birthrights.''
Xavier (16-11) made good on its second straight chance to beat a ranked team at home. The Musketeers blew a 17-point lead before losing to then-No. 24 VCU on Saturday.
Xavier pulled it out despite missing point guard Dee Davis, who was recovering from a head injury suffered against VCU.
Travis Taylor had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Xavier, whose 45-36 advantage in rebounds led to 18 second-chance points.
By contrast, Memphis managed only four points off rebounds the entire game.
''We knew how big and physical they were,'' Taylor said. ''Coach (Chris Mack) made it a big challenge to give them no second chances.''
Johnson made three 3's that helped the Tigers overcome that 13-point deficit in the second half. D.J. Stephens made the first of his two free throws with seven-tenths of a second left, but failed to hit the rim while purposely missing the second shot, clinching it for Xavier.
Davis left the 75-71 loss to VCU with 13:35 to play after bumping foreheads with a VCU player.
Davis was still suffering effects of the collision and didn't suit up, leaving Xavier without a proven ball handler. Shooting guard Semaj Christon, a freshman who leads the Musketeers with 15 points per game, had to handle the ball after Davis got hurt against VCU and finished with 10 turnovers. He had only one on Tuesday.
The home-court advantage helped as well. Xavier hasn't lost two straight home games since 2005-06.
Taylor set the tone early, helping Xavier take a 19-10 lead. He had 11 points and six rebounds in the first 12 minutes.
Christon's jumper pushed the lead to 27-15, taking advantage of Memphis' stretch of 5:35 without a point. The Musketeers lost another player during the stretch: Forward Isaiah Philmore got hit in the face and went to the bench with a bloody nose.
Philmore got back in the game with gauze shoved into his nostrils and made two free throws that helped close out a 31-20 halftime lead. The Tigers shot only 33 percent from the field and were outrebounded 26-15. They managed only four free throws and missed all of them.
''I believe in energy, and our energy in the first half stunk, which is full credit to Xavier,'' Pastner said. ''They kicked our butts.''
Xavier pushed the lead to 13 points before Memphis started trapping, got a little energy on defense and got back into the game. Tarik Black had a putback, Memphis' first points off a rebound, and Johnson had a steal that led to a three-point play and cut the lead to 37-31.
The Tigers finally found their shooting touch, hitting four straight 3's to erase the rest of a 13-point deficit and tie it 45-all with 7:46 left. Johnson hit a fall-away 3-pointer for the Tigers' first lead, 50-49, with 6:26 to go.
There were four lead changes, with Redford's long 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead to stay 58-57. Redford was fouled and made two free throws with 14.4 seconds to go for a 63-59 lead.