CINCINNATI - In a battle between the Atlantic 10's preseason No. 1 and No. 2, Xavier held court and handed visiting UMass its first league loss on Thursday night, 83-77, at a soldout Cintas Center. Senior Rashaun Freeman became UMass' sixth all-time leading scorer notching a game-high 22 points, but the Musketeers had six players score in double figures led by 16 from Justin Doellman.
Preseason A-10 No.1 pick Xavier improves to 13-5 overall and 3-1 in the league, while UMass falls to 13-4 overall and 3-1 in the conference. The two teams are now tied for the top spot in the A-10. The loss was just the third non-home loss for UMass who is 8-3 this season away from the Mullins Center. Pressure free throw shooting gave Xavier the late edge as the Musketeers hit six straight from the charity stripe in the final 23 seconds. With 30 seconds remaining, UMass junior forward Etienne Brower hit a three-pointer from the left wing to pull the Minutemen within two, 77-75, following sophomore Chris Lowe's steal off the Xavier inbound.
For the game, free throw shooting gave Xavier an 11-point edge as the Musketeers hit 15-of-22 from the line compared to just 2-for-4 for the Minutemen.
The Minutemen had a season-high 25 offensive rebounds and controlled the boards by a 47-to-31 margin. The game featured seven ties and 12 lead changes.
Freeman's game-high 22 points give him 1,575 for his career which is the sixth most in school history. Already this season he has surpassed Julius `Dr. J.' Erving and Marcus Camby on the all-time scoring list. He also pulled in 13 rebounds giving him the 39th double-double of his career. Senior forward Stephane Lasme (Libreville, Gabon) added 18 points and nine rebounds, while junior guard Gary Forbes (Brookly, N.Y.) chipped in 17 points off the bench.
Xavier was led by Doellman's 16 points and Stanley Burrell who scored 15 points. Drew Lavender scored 14 points and had five steals. UMass trailed by as many 12 in the first half but cut the lead down to one, 37-36, when Lasme hit a turn-around jumper in the lane with 40 seconds before halftime. Prior to that, Xavier put together a 12-to-4 run capped by three consecutive field goals - two by Josh Duncan and one by Doellman to take a 37-25 lead with 3:53 to play.
UMass held the Musketeers scoreless for the remainder of the half and behind
six points from Lasme and a three-pointer from Brower, the Minutemen closed
the half with an 11-to-0 run.
The Minutemen hit 50 percent of their shots in the first half shooting 17-of-
34 attempts in the first half. Lasme led the team with 12 points, while
Freeman scored 10 points. Lasme was 6-for-8 from the field. UMass also
outrebounded Xavier by a 22-to-16 edge.
UMass hit four of its first five shots to start the second half, but four consecutive three pointers from Burrell (two), Doellman, and Lavender gave Xavier a 55-47 lead with 14:18 to play in the half forcing a UMass timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Minutemen responded with a three-pointer from Life, an offensive put-back for Lasme, a steal and fastbreak lay-up for Life, and a spinning jump hook from Freeman giving UMass a 56-55 lead with 12:19 to go.
The two teams traded points for the next four minutes with Xavier managing a one-point lead, 61-60, with 7:36 to play. Xavier began to pull away, however, taking a 68-62 lead when Doellman spun into the lane to hit a jump hook over Lasme with 5:24 to go. Lavender gave the Musketeers a 72-62 lead after picking up his fifth steal of the game and hitting a reverse lay-up with 3:28 remaining.
UMass tried to shoot their way back into the game late, but missed three consecutive three-pointers before Lasme tipped in a basket to cut the lead to 76-70 with 44 seconds to go.
After Brower's three-pointer, Xavier hit six straight free throws down the stretch, while UMass managed just one more Lasme bucket for the final 83-77 score.