No. 6 Xavier 75, Massachusetts 41

Knowing it couldn’t match up inside, Massachusetts dropped into

a zone defense that blanketed Ta’Shia Phillips and Amber Harris –

Xavier’s top front-line players – and left openings on the

perimeter.

“That’s when you get punished,” forward April Phillips

said.

Ta’Shia Phillips pulled off her 15th double-double of the season

on Saturday, and No. 6 Xavier used its inside-outside balance to

pull away 75-41, clinching the Atlantic 10 regular-season title

with its 13th straight win.

The Musketeers (22-3, 12-0) extended the third-longest winning

streak in school history by featuring their balance and defense. No

matter what UMass (10-17, 4-8) did on defense, the Musketeers found

a way around it.

“They have a great inside-outside game,” UMass coach Marnie

Dacko said. “They play beyond their individual differences and

they play together as a team. I think we learned something from

that.”

Especially in the first half. UMass had only 13 points at

halftime, the fewest against Xavier in an opening half this season,

and shot only 19 percent – five field goals, five turnovers. As the

missed shots multiplied, UMass started forcing wild attempts.

“We came out and we were intimidated,” Dacko said. “We

weren’t aggressive, and they took it to us.”

The Musketeers clinched their second straight A10 title when

Temple lost to Dayton 71-63 later in the day. The difference

between Xavier’s team this season and last is its depth on the

perimeter. Tyeasha Moss hit consecutive 3s – one from the top of

the key, the other from the right corner – and freshman Katie Rutan

hit another, sparking an 11-0 spurt that made it 22-6.

Rutan has already set a freshman record for 3s in a season and

has 69 overall. Moss and Rutan each made four 3s and finished with

12 points.

“That’s exactly what we work on every day – balance in our

offense,” said Ta’Shia Phillips, who had 11 points and 10

rebounds. “We knew they were probably going to double down on the

post and try to take us away. But we have very apt shooters. They

can shoot from wherever they want, from any position, and it just

works.”

Moss hit two more 3s during a 13-4 run that opened the second

half and pushed the lead to 25. Moss was only 1-of-10 from behind

the arc in the last two games, scoring a total of seven points.

“I think what makes us a special team is our balance,” coach

Kevin McGuff said. “Not only do we have a lot of different players

that on any given night can lead us in scoring, but more important,

we’ve got inside players that are terrific, and great 3-point

shooting. When both of those are working, we’re very difficult to

play against.”

Stephanie Lawrence had nine points for UMass, which shot 26

percent from the field during its 15th straight loss to Xavier.