Xavier (20-11) vs. Saint Louis (25-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 10, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Boardwalk Hall (10,500) -- Atlantic City, New Jersey Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Xavier 13-3, Saint Louis 15-1. Away Record: Xavier 5-6 , Saint Louis 6-5. Neutral Record: Xavier 2-2, Saint Louis 4-0. Conference Record: Xavier 10-6, Saint Louis 12-4. Series Record: Xavier leads 28-14.
GAMES NOTES: Coming off a thrilling victory in their quarterfinal matchup, the third-seeded Xavier Musketeers will face off with the second-seeded Saint Louis Billikens in semifinal action of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament at Boardwalk Hall.
After an up and down year Xavier might be able to salvage its season after finishing the season after escaping with a 70-69 win over Dayton in the quarterfinals. The Musketeers had just a 19-11 mark overall this season which was below the normal standards for a team that has been a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament recently.
The Musketeers will have a tough go of it in trying to reach the title game as they have already dropped two contests this season to Saint Louis, despite leading the all-time series 28-14.
Saint Louis wasn't picked to make a ton of noise in the Atlantic 10 this season but the Billikens turned in one of the best seasons in the conference, finishing the year with 12-4 conference mark. The Billikens downed La Salle 78-71 in the quarterfinal round of the tournament after a bye in the first round.
Xavier took advantage of Dayton's anemic offense down the stretch to pull out a victory on Friday. The Flyers did not score a point in the final three minutes and missed two shots, one a layup, on their last possession to secure the win for the Musketeers. Xavier shot better in the game overall, connecting on 48.0 percent of its shots, but Dayton outscored the Musketeers 24-12 from beyond the arc to keep the game interesting throughout.
Mark Lyons (15.7 ppg) was unstoppable down the stretch in the win as he scored the last seven points for Xavier, including a layup that put the team ahead 70-69 with 21 seconds remaining. The junior guard was part of a terrific backcourt tandem for the Musketeers this season. The second part of that tandem is Tu Holloway (16.7 ppg, 5.4 apg). The senior guard had team leads in points and assists this season to finished off a strong collegiate career. Holloway again put the team on his back in the quarterfinals, scoring 21 points, while Kenny Frease (9.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg), normally a supplemental scorer, stepped up and put in 17 points to go with seven rebounds. Dezmine Wells (10.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) has been able to score and clean the glass effectively as well for the Musketeers.
Both teams shot at the same 44.6 percent clip in the Billikens' quarterfinal matchup with La Salle, but slim advantages from the free-throw line (19-13) and beyond the arc (27-24) added up for Saint Louis and helped it hold off a late surge from the Explorers.
The Key to the Billikens' success this season as been head coach Rick Majerus' focus on the defensive end. Saint Louis surrendered only 57.1 points per game this season which not only led the conference, but ranked eighth overall in Division I. The team's ability on defense has allowed it to get by scoring just 69.4 points, as an impressive +12.3 scoring margin still existed. Brian Conklin (14.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg) was the team's leading scorer this season. Dwayne Evans (7.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) provides grit on the boards. Kwamain Mitchell (12.2 ppg, 3.7 apg) runs the point and is a capable scorer, while Cody Ellis (10.5 ppg) provides production off the bench.
These two squads have taken very different routes to get to the semifinals but only one squad can keep that going into the title game. With its stellar defensive play and two wins against Xavier already this season, Saint Louis looks poised to make it three.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Louis 70, Xavier 68
03/10 10:32:20 ET