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CINCINNATI – Up by 17 points early in the second half, Xavier had reason to feel a little comfortable.
The Musketeers almost never lose on their home court to another Atlantic 10 team. They were handling No. 24 Virginia Commonwealth's full-court pressure as well as anyone could expect. The crowd was getting into it.
In a matter of minutes, the Musketeers lost their best ballhandler and their lead.
VCU intensified its full-court pressure and pulled out a 75-71 victory on Saturday that stunned the Musketeers, who lost point guard Dee Davis to a head injury in the second half.
"This one definitely stings," said guard Brad Redford, who finished with 15 points. "It's a game we really needed, especially to keep pace in the Atlantic 10."
Troy Daniels scored 19 points, including consecutive 3s that started VCU's big comeback. The Rams (22-6, 10-3) forced Xavier into a season-high 22 turnovers, 12 in the second half.
The Musketeers (15-11, 8-5) played the final 13:35 without Davis, who was hit in the forehead and cut above his right eye. He left for treatment with Xavier up by five points and never returned.
Semaj Christon, a freshman shooting guard, was forced to handle the ball the rest of the way. He scored 11 points and had 10 of Xavier's 22 turnovers.
"In the second half, we just didn't do as good of a job handling the pressure," Redford said. "In the first half, we were more poised. In the second half, we had stretches — especially when Dee went out — where we turned the ball over too much. It definitely hurts when he goes out of the game and Semaj is the primary ball handler, especially in a game like this."
Davis and Redford finished with 15 points apiece for Xavier, which came into the game as the only team still unbeaten at home in A-10 games. VCU became only the second A-10 team to win at the Cintas Center since 2007, along with Saint Louis.
The Musketeers are 52-2 in A-10 home games since 2007.
VCU's Daniels set a school record for 3-pointers in a season, hitting four of them in the second half. Rob Brandenberg added 18 points and scored the Rams' final six, including two free throws with 10.8 seconds left that clinched it.
"At halftime, we had a decision to make," Brandenberg said. "We could feel sorry for ourselves after the first half. We made a decision to come out and just played hard. That willed us to win."
The Rams were coming off a 76-62 loss at Saint Louis that snapped a five-game winning streak and showed the way to beat them — handle the full-court pressure. VCU leads the nation in steals and forced turnovers, leading to a lot of easy points.
Xavier handled the pressure for a half. The Musketeers shot 73.7 percent from the field (14 of 19) while taking a 39-26 lead into halftime. Christon had a steal and dunk that pushed it to 43-26 early in the second half.
Then, it all fell apart for Xavier.
The Rams were only 2 of 17 from behind the arc in the first half, preventing them from getting into their full-court pressure. Daniels' 3s got them into a comfort zone and started a 10-point run. Treveon Graham hit a baseline shot and a 3-pointer as VCU got its first lead, 50-48, completing a 24-5 run that coincided with Davis' injury.
"That hurt us, no doubt about it," coach Chris Mack said. "But I don't want to sit here and act like we would have won the game if Dee didn't (get hurt). The fact is VCU was gaining momentum while Dee was on the floor, and we weren't ourselves against their pressure."
There were three ties and nine lead changes down the stretch. Brandenberg hit a floater in the lane and two free throws that put VCU up 73-68 with 26 seconds left, the Rams' biggest lead.
Xavier's Justin Martin hit a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left, but Brandenberg made two more free throws.
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