- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - Leading scorer Semaj Christon had to sit on Xavier’s bench with four fouls and watch the rest of the Musketeers complete their amazing comeback.

Down by 17 points with 15 minutes left, Xavier won going away.

The Musketeers used their balance, their defense and a big closing run to rally for an 80-67 victory on Wednesday night and remain unbeaten at home.

The Musketeers (14-4, 4-1 Big East) held the Hoyas scoreless over the final 6 minutes and closed with a 16-point run that showed their depth and their tenacity at home. Xavier is 12-0 at the Cintas Center this season and 185-25 in 14 seasons.

“We’ve got a resilient team,” said Justin Martin, one of four Xavier players in double figures. “That’s the story of Xavier, really. You can never count us out.”

The Hoyas (11-5, 3-2) matched their season high by hitting 10 3-pointers and building a 17-point lead with 14:58 to go. Once the Musketeers clamped down on the perimeter, the Hoyas came apart.

“If you look at all year, we’ve played well in the first half or the second half,” said Markel Starks, who led Georgetown with 19 points. “We haven’t put together two really good halves. Once we do that, we think we’ll be OK.

“That’s very abnormal for our team, what happened in the second half.”

Christon started the comeback, but wound up on the bench with four fouls and Xavier trailing by two with 8:57 left. The rest of the roster finished it off, getting a little bit from everybody.

“It’s always a great feeling when I go out and somebody else goes out and they take over,” said Christon, who had a team-high 18 points.

Xavier went 15 of 26 from the field in the second half against one of the league’s stingiest defenses. The Hoyas missed their last eight shots and a pair of free throws as Xavier pulled away.

“They made a run and they kept going,” coach John Thompson III said. “We couldn’t stop that run.”

The game matched two of the Big East’s stingiest defenses, but the offenses set a quick up-and-down pace from the outset. Xavier hit seven of its first 10 shots while pulling ahead 14-11.

Starks hit a 3-pointer and a layup that started a 10-point run and gave the Hoyas their first lead 21-14. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera also found his touch, making three 3-pointers and a three-point play as Georgetown extended the lead to 36-25.

Smith-Rivera has been on a scoring surge lately, getting 31, 19, 18 and 18 in his last four games.

A tactical change also played a role. The Hoyas went to a zone defense that slowed the Musketeers. Xavier missed five of its six shots after the switch.

The Hoyas took a 42-29 lead into the break, Xavier’s biggest halftime deficit of the season. Georgetown was 7 of 11 from beyond the arc, with Smith-Rivera and Starks scoring 12 each in the half.

At halftime, coach Chris Mack was angry over his players’ lack of effort.

“We were getting our heads handed to us on a platter in the first half,” Mack said. “In the second half, I was really proud of our kids for responding a couple of times.”

The halftime talk had an effect.

“When we got into the locker room, we took a long, hard look in the mirror,” said Isaiah Philmore, who had 14 points. “That’s not a team that we are. In the first half, we were totally lackadaisical and coach Mack let us know that we needed to pick it up.”

Xavier opened the second half with a 7-0 run, pushing the pace and getting layups. The Hoyas then hit three more 3s and rebuilt the lead. The Hoyas wouldn’t hit another 3 the rest of the way, finishing 10 of 18 beyond the arc.

Xavier went to a full-court press and got back into it. Christon asserted himself, getting a pair of layups and a pull-up jumper during a 12-2 run.

Later, Christon’s steal and dunk cut it to 61-56, but he picked up his fourth foul with 8:57 left and went to the bench. Xavier clamped down on Georgetown’s perimeter shooting, and Davis’ three-point play cut it to 65-64 with 6:37 to go.

Myles Davis’ 3 - his only basket of the game - gave Xavier its first lead since the opening minutes at 68-67 with 4:55 to go. Matt Stainbrook had a layup and a pair of free throws that started Xavier pulling away.


Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjoekay

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