No. 5 Xavier 72, S. Dakota St. 56
Ta'Shia Phillips was way too much for an overmatched team.
The 6-foot-6 center had 27 points and 15 rebounds Sunday, and second-seeded Xavier got off to a slow start on its home court before using its front-line advantage to pull away from South Dakota State 72-56 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Xavier (29-2) will play Louisville on Tuesday, the rematch of familiar teams that played a tight game earlier this season on the same court. The Musketeers beat the Cardinals 71-59 on Nov. 23, when Amber Harris had 28 points and 18 rebounds.
The Cardinals beat Vanderbilt 81-62 in the other first-round game, shooting 60 percent from the field.
''They had a good game today against Vanderbilt, so we're going to have to match their intensity and play our game,'' Harris said.
Harris had 16 points and 12 rebounds against South Dakota State (19-14), the three-time Summit League champs who couldn't measure up to Xavier's two dominant front-line players. Phillips' 27 points were two shy of her career high. She had nine offensive rebounds, keeping possessions going.
''Phillips - she just doesn't take plays off,'' South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said. ''People can talk about how she's tall, she's strong, she's all that. I think she'd be a good player if she was 5-foot-10. Having a player like that on your team is a motivating factor for the other players.''
Ashley Eide led the Jackrabbits with 10 points.
The Musketeers have won 24 in a row on their home court, including three NCAA tournament games in the last two years.
Xavier's home-court advantage will be diluted in the second round. Louisville is second in the nation in home attendance at 10,859 - only Tennessee drew bigger crowds this season - and brought a large contingent for its 81-62 win over Vanderbilt in the opening game on Sunday.
It'll be a rematch of contrasting styles. Louisville pulled ahead by 11 with its fastbreak offense in that November game, but had no way to stop Harris in Xavier's halfcourt approach.
''Louisville was terrific against Vanderbilt today,'' said Xavier coach Kevin McGuff, who watched the first half of that game from the student section. ''We're going to have to be really good, especially in transition. When they get going up the floor they're very good.''
South Dakota State has no player taller than 6-foot-2 and knew it would have trouble containing the 6-6 Phillips and the 6-5 Harris, who form one of the nation's top frontcourt duos. Phillips is second in the nation in rebounding with 12.4 per game. Harris is a two-time Atlantic 10 player of the year.
''It's just hard to make up for the height gap,'' Jackrabbits forward Kristin Rotert said. ''They're 6-5, 6-6 and we're standing there at 6-foot or 6-2. It's hard to outjump someone who's that athletic.''
South Dakota State had won its last eight games by playing tough defense and holding opponents to an average of 51.1 points during the streak.
The Jackrabbits did a little bit of everything to try to contain Harris, who had two players around her most of the time. The result was Phillips getting the ball more in the first half and scoring 16 points. The Jackrabbits' strategy worked well enough to keep them in the game.
Phillips scored the first eight points of a 12-0 run that put Xavier ahead 17-6. She had a right-hand bank shot, a pair of free throws and a putback off a teammate's missed free throw during the run.
The Jackrabbits cut it to 32-30 on Jennifer Schuttloffel's two free throws with 2:49 left in the first half. By then, Harris had taken only two shots. She asserted herself the rest of the way, making a pair of left-hand layups and blocking a shot that set up Special Jennings' three-point play and a 39-30 halftime lead.
Harris kept it up at the start of the second half, allowing Xavier to take control. She scored off an inbound pass from Jennings, made a free throw, drove for a bank shot and had a 3-pointer rim out - Phillips got the rebound for a putback and a three-point play.
Tyeasha Moss' 3 built the lead to 57-37 with 13 minutes to go. South Dakota State didn't made a run again.