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January 24, 2013Xavier @ Charlotte BOX SCORE
The visiting Xavier Musketeers fell to the Charlotte 49ers in Halton Arena in the annual White Out 63-57.
The Musketeers ventured into Halton Arena 11-6 and on a four game winning streak with a perfect 4-0 mark in the Atlantic 10 play.
Along with a perfect conference record the Musketeers entered the game second in the Atlantic 10 in field goal percentage defense, forcing teams to shoot an average of 41 percent.
From the tip, the physicality of this game was evident.
"They're physical, they're strong around the rim," said Musketeers Head Coach Chris Mack. "Their freshmen: Willie Clayton and Darion Clark, you almost want to see their birth certificates".
Early, Pierria Henry and Demario Mayfield took turns guarding versatile freshman, 4-time winner of the A10 rookie of the week award, Semaj Christon.
Christon, who finished with a game-high 18 points, wouldn't be stopped but rather somewhat hindered on the night. His first of five turnovers came at the 18 minute mark with a forced error from Henry. His second would come from Mayfield three minutes later and would end the half with three total.
"I felt like we were playing against ourselves," said 49ers Head Coach Alan Major. "[It was] a hard-fought typical A10 wrestling match".
The 49ers committed six first half fouls but the Musketeers only converted 1-of-4 free throw attempts. On the other end, the 49ers were fouled 12 times, took 12 free throw attempts and only made four, leaving eight points still on the court.
Coach Mack mentioned that the 49ers three-point troubles were a factor in the Musketeers' preparation for the game. "Our plan was to pack the lane, to make it really difficult," said Mack. "Charlotte [came] in as one of the worst shooting teams in the country from three".
Aside of the three-point troubles, the 49ers boasted some of their best shooting of the season except for a four minute plus drought from 15:21 to 10:58 that would launch a 9-1 Musketeer run ending with 6:31 left in the first half.
But once again on the back of Major's "defensive blueprint" the Musketeers went into the half shooting just 36 percent from the field with Christon accounting for 11 of their 27 points.
Fueled by their freshman, Denzel Ingram showed the demeanor of a senior, with two lead-changing three-pointers coming in the final three minutes of the first half.
"Great part about freshmen", said Major, "they keep it simple".
"I just wanted to give my team a spark", said Ingram on his shooting tonight, adding that defensively, "my main assignment was to pretty much shut down Redford," and shutdown Redford he did.
Brad Redford came into the game averaging 8 points per game and shooting 47 percent from outside of the arc. He ended the night 5 points and 1 three-pointer.
The second half featured better shooting from both teams but the Musketeers would fall into foul trouble early sending the 49ers to the line 29 times on the night.
"We battled, but we fouled excessively and we couldn't stop", said Mack.
With the gift of 29 free throws, how did the 49ers respond? With a season-low 31 percent (14-29) leaving 15 points off the board.
Although the 49ers lost the points in the paint battle due to Travis Taylor's double-double of 18 pts and 11 rebounds, Willie Clayton would pull down 8 boards with 1 block, Darion Clark grabbed six boards and added a game high of 4 blocks. Chris Braswell was non-existent off the glass with two rebounds.
The second half, much like the first, featured two teams going back and forth. The game had 14 lead changes until the turning point came for the 49ers with 12:02 remaining when Mayfield drove after a missed three-pointer for a brilliant dish below the basket to Clayton to put the 49ers up 40-37 forcing a Musketeers timeout.
After the break in play, Mayfield made back-to-back buckets from three-point range to ignite a 11-2 run for the 49ers with 8:18 left to put them up 49-40, a lead they wouldn't give up for the rest of the night.
The 49ers will face George Washington on the road on Saturday at 2p.m.