Xavier’s experience shines through
The Xavier Musketeers have experienced guards in senior Tu Holloway and junior Mark Lyons. That experience was quite evident Monday night.
Holloway scored 10 of his 24 points in overtime after Lyons tied it up in the final seconds of regulation, and No. 11 Xavier rallied from 10 down to beat 20th-ranked Vanderbilt 82-70 on Monday night.
”It’s all cause of my backcourt main man, Tu Holloway,” Lyons said. ”I love him because of the way he plays. (He’s) a killer on the court, and he won the game for us in overtime.”
This was the first game against a ranked opponent for both Vanderbilt and Xavier, the five-time Atlantic 10 champ. The Commodores, picked to finish second in the Southeastern Conference, had the advantage of being at home in cozy Memorial Gym in front of a soldout crowd.
For the Musketeers, this was their first road game. They still found a way to improve to 5-0 for the best start yet under Chris Mack in his third season.
”Them being without (Festus) Ezeli helped us,” Mack said of Vandy’s senior center who’s out with a sprained right knee. ”He can be like a kid in a candy store if he’s not in foul trouble. I am proud of our kids. It is their first game on the road in a very hostile environment.”
Xavier trailed by as much as 10. The Musketeers scored the final four points of regulation, including Lyons’ short jumper with 6.5 seconds left to force overtime. Wells hit two free throws, and Holloway knocked down two 3-pointers to cap a 12-0 run ending with 2:27 remaining in overtime that put Xavier up 74-66.
”We’ve been down before a lot of times and we came back a lot of times, so there was no pressure on us,” Lyons said. ”We just wanted to come out there and get the win.”
Lyons had 19 points for Xavier, and Travis Taylor added 11.
John Jenkins led Vanderbilt (5-2) with 20 points. Lance Goulbourne and Jeffery Taylor had 18 apiece. The Commodores went cold after Jenkins’ 3 with 3:56 left put Vandy up 66-62. They didn’t score again until Jenkins’ jumper with 2:17 left in overtime, but coach Kevin Stallings was more disappointed in his Commodores turning the ball over 18 times.
”Turnovers are generally careless or selfish,” Stallings said. ”Neither of those has anything to do with the other team.”
Vandy had two chances to pull out the victory in regulation.
Andre Walker, who spent his first four years at Vandy before graduating in May and transferring to Xavier, guarded Jenkins who forced up a short jumper with 12 seconds left that missed. Walker got the rebound up to Lyons who raced downcourt for the tying bucket.
”I know the situation that we were in, and I feel like it didn’t matter who it was I was going to do my best to shut him down,” said Walker, who also had a team-high 14 rebounds. ”I just knew he liked to go, he liked to ball fake and go into people, so I just held my ground on him.”
Vandy had the last shot in regulation. Tinsley had the ball knocked away, and Goulbourne threw up a shot that clanked off the backboard and off the rim. Steve Tchiengang took responsibility for not setting the screen to help free a shooter.
”We didn’t execute,” Stallings said. ”That’s a play we work on all the time in practice. We just had a guy not do what he’s supposed to do.”
The Musketeers outrebounded Vanderbilt 54-33 and outscored the Commodores 22-8 off turnovers. They also had a big edge at the free throw line (20 of 27) compared to Vandy (9 of 12), and they hit all eight during overtime.
Xavier also had 7-footer Kenny Frease. The Commodores tried defending him with Tchiengang, who is 3 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter. Tchiengang fouled out in overtime. Frease finished with six points and four rebounds in only 20 minutes due to foul trouble.
The game turned into a track meet with a combined 15 steals.
The Musketeers hit four of their first five shots in grabbing their biggest lead at 8-3 until overtime. Vanderbilt led 34-29 at halftime and by as much as 10 in the second half, the last at 46-36 with 15:37 left on a dunk by Taylor.
Xavier got right back in the game 10 quick points in a spurt keyed by three steals, two by Lyons. Holloway had a shot blocked by Dai-Jon Parker who blocked another before officials called goaltending on Travis Taylor’s bucket with 11:51 remaining for a 52-51 lead – the Musketeers’ first since 6:35 of the first half.