Men's Basketball Dropped by Xavier, 79-66
Feb. 14, 2013
Cincinnati, Ohio - Since 2007, the Xavier University Musketeers have played 52 Atlantic 10 games in the Cintas Center and suffered only one loss. The Fordham University was looking to hand Xavier its second conference home loss in that time frame tonight but, despite a game-high 23 points from Mandell Thomas and a late-game comeback attempt, the Rams fell to the Musketeers, 79-66.
With the loss, Fordham falls to 6-19 overall, 2-8 in the Atlantic 10, while Xavier improves to 14-9 overall, 7-3 in the conference.
"I'm never happy with a loss but I thought we competed well tonight," said Fordham head coach Tom Pecora. "It came down to a couple of plays in the second half that Xavier made that proved to be the difference in the game."
The game featured a battle between two of the top freshmen in the Atlantic 10 in Fordham's Thomas and Xavier's Semaj Christon. Thomas shot 8-of-15 from the field, 2-for-4 from behind the arc, and he was 5-for-7 from the charity stripe in netting his season-high 23 points, 18 of those coming in the second half. He also added a team-best five assists. Christon scored a team-high 19 for the Musketeers, doing most of his damage from free throw stripe where he scored seven points, and he also added five assists.
Xavier took its largest lead of the night, 61-46, on a pair of free throws with just over six minutes left when the Rams mounted their comeback effort. A Thomas jumper 15 seconds later were the first two of eight straight points as Fordham pulled within seven, 61-54, on three Branden Frazier free throws with 4:18 remaining.
A Dee Davis three bumped the Xavier lead back to double digits 20 seconds later, 64-54, but the Rams responded with a 7-4 spurt to make it a 68-61 game following a Thomas trifecta with 2:31 on the clock.
After a Xavier miss, the Rams had the chance to get closer but Frazier was whistled for a charge with 2:11 remaining, a close call that could have easily been ruled a block. But Davis made only one of the two ensuing free throws and Thomas was able to drive the lane and put the ball in off the backboard to cut the Fordham deficit to six, 69-63, with just under two minutes left.
Thomas fouled Christon, who entered the game shooting 61.7% from the free throw line, with 1:46 remaining and Christon nailed both free throws before taking a Thomas missed three and going in for an uncontested layup 15 seconds later to make it a ten-point game, 73-63.
After Davis hit two free throws with 1:16 left, Luka Zivkovic nailed a three-pointer for the Rams, his third three of the night, to pull Fordham within nine, 75-66 with 1:08 on the clock but that was as close as the Rams would get.
A Thomas free throw just under a minute later got the Fordham advantage to seven, 15-8, and the Rams led by seven again 17-10, with 11:51 left in the half when Xavier went on a 12-6 run to make it a one-point game, 23-22, with 8:08 left.
Fordham led by one again with 7:24 left in the period, 25-24, before the Musketeers scored nine straight to take a 33-25 lead four minutes later. Xavier built the lead to as many as nine, 38-29, before Zivkovic cut Fordham's halftime deficit to six, 33-28, with a three at the buzzer.
The Rams return to action on Saturday, February 16, as they host the eleventh-ranked Butler University Bulldogs in the Rose Hill Gym at 4:00 p.m. The game is sold out but if you don't have a ticket you can watch the game live on the CBS Sports Network. To see if your cable provider carries the CBS Sports Network, click here.