No. 9 Xavier beats Middle Tennessee 80-63Dec 4, 2009 - 3:02 AM By JOE KAY AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI(AP) -- Ta'Shia Phillips had a small cut on her chin and a scratch below her right eye.
A tough night? Not really. She got the best of it all the way around.
Phillips scored 20 points and had 20 rebounds Thursday night, dominating the game inside while ninth-ranked Xavier matched the best start in its history with an 80-63 victory over Middle Tennessee.
The Musketeers (6-0) pulled ahead 30-13 and stayed ahead by at least 12 the rest of the way. Phillips was the focal point, picking up her fourth double-double of the season before halftime. Eleven of her 20 rebounds were on offense, giving Xavier plenty of second chances against a defense helpless to control the 6-foot-6 center.
"With Middle Tennessee's lack of size, that was a hard matchup for them," coach Kevin McGuff said. "She was relentless tonight. She's such a hard worker. When she gets going like that, she's almost impossible to stop."
So was Xavier's point guard, who had an important role against the Blue Raiders (3-3) and their full-court pressure. Special Jennings had 12 points and a career-high nine assists, forcing Middle Tennessee to back off.
"It's always important to take care of the ball, especially against a team that like to put pressure on the wings and try to force us to do things that's not what we really want to do," said Jennings, who also had three steals. "But I thought we did a great job today. I think we handled the pressure well."
Middle Tennessee was reduced to shooting from the perimeter - 13 of 39 from behind the arc - and couldn't get the ball to its top scorer. Senior guard Alysha Clark, who led the nation in scoring last season at 27.5 points per game, had only one basket and three fouls in the first half, when Xavier took control.
Clark finished with a season-low 11 points, going 2 of 4 from the field. Xavier players took turns guarding her and making sure she didn't get the ball in position to get a clean shot.
"We just played aggressive defense, making sure we always had a hand up so she had to shoot over it," Phillips said.
Jackie Pickel led the Blue Raiders with a season-high 22 points. All three of Middle Tennessee's losses have come against ranked teams - against Louisiana State, Tennessee and Xavier.
A few minutes after it was over, the Musketeers were ready to move on to a special game - crosstown rival Cincinnati on Sunday at Xavier. The Bearcats pulled off a 65-55 upset last season and have won the last two games in the series.
"You can't dwell on what happened the last year and the last year, or you'll never move forward," Jennings said. "And we're concentrating on moving forward. They have a good team, we have a great team.
"Yeah, honestly, it is (motivation). They won twice, once at our gym and the other time at theirs. So it's great for them to come back here and have an opportunity to show them what's really supposed to happen."
Xavier never trailed on Thursday. The Musketeers got the ball inside to Phillips for layups their first two times down the court, prompting Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell to call a timeout.
It was going to be a long night.
Jennings hit a 3-pointer and passed to Phillips on an inbound play for a layup and a 13-3 lead. Middle Tennessee got it down to four points before Xavier took control with another spurt led by Phillips, who had a pair of free throws and a layup. Back-to-back 3s by Tyeasha Moss pushed it to 30-13 with 5:43 left in the half.
The half ended on a play that summed up things for Middle Tennessee - Dana Garrett missed an uncontested layup off a fastbreak at the buzzer.
Phillips opened the second half by scoring inside off a putback, taking a hit to the jaw while going up strong.
Didn't even slow her down.
- NCAA WOMENS BB
MIDDLE TENN 63
XAVIER (9) 80 FINAL
Dec 3 8:58 PM
- NCAA WOMENS BB
MIDDLE TENN 25
XAVIER (9) 37 HALFTIME
Dec 3 7:57 PM
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- Phillips helps Xavier claim A-10 title Mar 7
- Xavier advances to A-10 title game Mar 6