LaSalle Loses Big to No. 15 Xavier

CINCINNATI (AP) -- One really good half was all that No. 15 Xavier needed to stay perfect atop the Atlantic 10.

B.J. Raymond scored 16 points, hitting long shots over La Salle's switching man-to-man and matchup zone defenses, and the Musketeers relied on their first-half defense and overall balance to beat the Explorers 73-53 on Sunday.

Xavier (15-2, 4-0) has won six in a row since a home-court loss to Butler on Dec. 23, with its freshmen blending in better as the season goes along. The main thing the Musketeers need to fix is their propensity to ease up in the second half.

La Salle (9-7, 1-2) shot only 35 percent in the first half, when it had more turnovers (10) than field goals (9). The Explorers made 47 percent in the second half, repeatedly beating the Musketeers down the floor for fastbreak baskets.

"We've got to play hard and not get sloppy in a game like this because in college basketball, what you do one game can carry over to the next," said freshman point guard Terrell Holloway, who had six assists.

La Salle (9-7, 1-2) was coming off a 68-61 win over Charlotte on Wednesday that moved the Explorers three games over .500 for the first time in two years. They never led against Xavier, which squeezed the momentum out of La Salle in the first half with its halfcourt defense.

Yves Mekongo Mbala and Rodney Green led La Salle with 15 points apiece.

Xavier showed offensive balance against La Salle's zone defense, getting the ball inside for easy baskets and going 8-of-17 from behind the 3-point arc. Raymond went 4-of-8 from behind the arc. Derrick Brown added 15 points, slicing inside with acrobatic moves.

Xavier has won 28 of its last 32 against La Salle, making quite an impression on the Explorers.

"They've been there," La Salle coach John Giannini said, referring to Xavier's conference titles and deep run in the NCAA tournament last season. "They want to get there, and they're well on their way. They're very good. They won't beat themselves."

The main problem for Xavier: free throws. Xavier went only 19-of-36 from the line, allowing La Salle to hang in after falling behind by 22 early in the second half. The Musketeers struggled with their free throws early in the season but had improved lately, making 72.5 percent in the last five games.

"That's definitely something we have to address," said Jason Love, who went 8-for-8 from the line and finished with 10 points. "We've just got to start making them. We struggle like that, and it's definitely going to come back and bite us later."

The Musketeers set the tone defensively on the first possession of the game, forcing a shot clock violation. Ruben Guillandeaux was dribbling beyond the arc when the clock ran out.

Xavier took control with a 12-1 run in the first half that featured a four-point play by Holloway -- Green slammed into him after his on-target shot from beyond the arc -- and acrobatic baskets by Brown, who used his quickness to get inside La Salle's zone defense. Brown had a putback, a turnaround bank shot and a lay-in after he drove the baseline and made a 360-degree spin move to get free.

The Musketeers led by as many as 19 in the first half and were up 39-22 at the break, matching La Salle's lowest-scoring half of the season.

La Salle got the lead down to 12 before Xavier asserted itself and rebuilt the lead. Green, the Explorers' leading scorer at 15.4 points per game, picked up his fourth foul with 17:42 to go.

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