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No. 6 Xavier beats Saint Joseph's 63-56

Feb 10, 2010 - 7:49 PM By JOE KAY AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI(AP) -- With every flashy drive to the basket, Amber Harris made everyone forget about the knee, just like she has.

Harris steadied No. 6 Xavier through some bad stretches on offense Wednesday, scoring a season-high 23 points off an assortment of moves to the basket, and the Musketeers overcame a late meltdown to beat Saint Joseph's 63-56 for their 10th straight victory.

Xavier (19-3, 9-0 Atlantic 10) opened with an 11-0 run and never trailed, overcoming streaks of poor shooting with solid defense and some impressive moves by the 6-foot-5 Harris. She went 11 of 17 from the field and had 10 rebounds, her best game since returning from knee surgery that sidelined her all last season.

"She played well today," coach Kevin McGuff said. "She was aggressive. That's the player that we kind of expect to see every night. I still think she's a work in progress in terms of coming off last year, but today was a good step."

The junior forward had surgery to repair cartilage and a structural problem in her left knee on Oct. 24, 2008, leaving Xavier without its top scorer and shot blocker last season. She wasn't back to full speed when this season started, but is finishing fast.

Harris has double-doubles in six of the past 11 games, showing she's well beyond the injury that held her back at the outset.

"I think I was a little hesitant (early)," Harris said. "I think I could have attacked at the beginning of the year, but I've got more confidence now."

Her jump shot was a little off, so she simply dribbled past defenders for layups with either hand.

"The coaches told me just to attack," Harris said. "I shot a couple of bad shots today. Sometimes I'm better at attacking, so they told me to attack."

Saint Joseph's (12-12, 4-4) knew it was coming, but couldn't do much to slow her down.

"We did what we could, but in the end she still had her double-double," coach Cindy Griffin said.

Katie Rutan set a Xavier freshman record with her 61st 3-pointer and finished with five points. Ta'Shia Phillips added 12 points and 14 rebounds.

The Hawks depend upon their perimeter defense to keep games close. Down by 14 with 4:18 to go, the Hawks intensified their traps and forced six turnovers in the next two minutes, allowing them to pull off an 11-0 run. Ashley Logue's fastbreak layup cut the lead to 59-56 with 55 seconds to go.

Saint Joseph's got the ball back after Xavier point guard Special Jennings missed a jumper, but she sneaked behind Ashley Prim for a steal. Jennings, who was only 1 of 14 from the field, was fouled twice in the closing seconds and made all four free throws to close it out.

"We just got a little careless toward the end," Jennings said. "Looking up at the score, we kind of sat back instead of keep on pushing forward. We've just got to continue to keep the pressure on teams for as long as we can."

The Hawks missed their first 11 shots, allowing Xavier to get the big early lead. Saint Joseph's didn't get within a basket until that final flurry that cut it to three.

"We bent a couple of times but we never broke," Griffin said. "We've had a couple of those stretches, so we don't get into panic mode. We know our defense is good enough to keep us in the game."