PHILADELPHIA Right from the start, Xavier tried to take advantage of Rhode Island's inexperience inside Wednesday night.
XU passed the ball down low and grabbed rebounds at both ends. The Rams eventually ran out of bodies.
That was the big difference.
The result: a sloppy 75-60 XU victory at the First Union Spectrum in the first round of the Bell Atlantic Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Championship.
David West, who started at center for Xavier, scored 14 of his career-high 24 points in the first half he came in averaging 11 a game and finished with 11 rebounds. He was 10-of-16 from the field.
The 6-foot-8 freshman totaled 20 points and 14 rebounds when the teams met Jan.9 in Providence. (XU won that game 78-75.)
David West (right) and Lloyd Price on defense.
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We knew they were undermanned inside, West said. The guys were coming to me. (Point guard Maurice McAfee) was looking for me. The offensive rebounds were there. We tried to attack the glass and get some easy putbacks, and I think we did that.
The Musketeers are 20-10 and have won 20 games for the fourth consecutive year and the fifth time in six years under coach Skip Prosser. They have won nine of their last 12.
Tonight they face St.Bonaventure (19-8) in the tournament quarterfinals (9p.m. approximate starting time, ESPN2).
When Xavier lost at Bonaventure 65-64 on March 1, it was the biggest game of the season to that point. You could say the same about tonight.
The NCAA Tournament bubble may burst for the loser almost without question if it's Xavier.
It's a game you've just got to go out and guard and play with emotion, XU senior Darnell Williams said. You can't worry about what happened last time.
The Rams finished 5-25 under first-year coach Jerry DeGregorio and conclude their season on a 13-game losing streak. They played Xavier without starting center Luther Clay (eye) and forward Tiger Womack (foot), their best two rebounders, who are injured.
They had twice as many cheerleaders at the game (12) than healthy scholarship players (six).
It didn't help when URI's 6-10 center, Andrew Wafula, picked up four personal fouls in the first half. That forced DeGregorio to turn to seldom-used 6-10 sub Joe Casper, who had totaled 12 points and 20 rebounds all season. Casper picked up his fourth foul with 15:14 remaining. That brought back Wafula, who fouled out with 11:39 to go.
It all only added to Xavier's advantage near the basket.
The Musketeers outrebounded URI 42-32, including 18 offensive boards. They also forced 26 turnovers.
Good thing they did some damage inside, because they hit only six of 22 attempts from 3-point range one of 10 in the first half and shot 40.6 percent from the field overall. They also were just 17-of-31 from the foul line.
It was sloppy throughout the whole game, Williams said. We played like we've never played all season. But it's like a jungle now you've just got to find a way to survive.
We made a lot of bad decisions. The best thing is we have another game.