No. 5 Xavier 84, South Carolina 65

Xavier coach Kevin McGuff thinks his team needs to shoot better

from the outside if it’s going to improve on last season’s 30 wins

and trip to the Elite Eight.

The fifth-ranked Musketeers got off to a strong start Friday

night in an 84-65 win over South Carolina, the season opener for

both teams.

With the Gamecocks defense collapsing on Xavier’s post players

early, the Musketeers hit their first four 3-pointers and shot

better than 50 percent from behind the arc to extend their

regular-season winning streak to 15 games.

McGuff stressed perimeter play during preseason practice.

”It should help our post players get a little more spacing and

room to operate,” he said.

Once the outside shots began falling, Xavier’s inside players

started to get easy looks. Eleven of the Musketeers’ 18 second-half

baskets were layups.

Amber Harris scored 21 points to lead the Musketeers, while

Ta’Shia Phillips added 19 and Tyeasha Moss 17. Xavier shot 55.7

percent from the field and trailed only after South Carolina hit

the opening bucket.

Even so, McGuff thinks his team has plenty of room to grow.

”We certainly have a long way to go to be as good as we are

capable of being,” he said.

The Musketeers broke the game open with a 20-2 run that put them

ahead 31-12 with 7 minutes to go in the first half. Xavier missed

just two shots during the spurt.

The Musketeers shot 55 percent in the first half to take a 45-29

lead at the break.

Xavier came out even stronger in the second half, hitting eight

of its first nine shots to go on a 17-5 run that put the Musketeers

up 62-34 with 14 minutes left.

La’Keisha Sutton led the Gamecocks with 19 points, while Ashley

Bruner had 17 points and 15 rebounds, both career highs for the

sophomore.

Dawn Staley still has a rebuilding project at South Carolina.

The coach is 24-34 with the Gamecocks and is working with a team

that has no players taller than 6-foot-1 and struggles to shoot.

South Carolina shot just 24 for 65 (36.9 percent) in the

opener.

”I don’t think our starting backcourt is going to shoot 1 for

18 again,” she said.

The Gamecocks did show some second-half hustle, holding Xavier

scoreless for 4 minutes and knocking a 28-point deficit down to

62-44 about halfway through the half. But they couldn’t get any

closer.

South Carolina hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2003 and

hasn’t beaten a team in the top 5 in nearly 13 years.

”I’m taking a lot of positives from this game. Look at

rebounding,” said Staley, whose Gamecocks outrebounded Xavier

40-35. ”I’m proud of that against a team that smashes

people.”