By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The first-place battle between Xavier and Dayton on Saturday at sold-out Cintas Center lived up to all the hype of a rivalry game - and then some.
Dedrick Finn puts up a jump shot.
(Ernest Coleman photos)
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David West scores again.
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Romain Sato pulls down a rebound.
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It featured a large comeback, back-and-forth lead changes and an incredible individual effort.
In the end, David West's 47 points and 18 rebounds were enough to give No. 20 Xavier an 85-77 win, forcing a tie at the top of the Atlantic 10 West standings with Dayton. Both teams are 8-1 in the conference, while Xavier moved to 17-4 overall. Dayton lost for the first time in 10 games and fell to 16-4.
If not for West's historic game, the Flyers would be comfortably in command of their own destiny.
Instead, they will host Xavier Feb. 22 at UD Arena in a game that could decide the division champion.
West's total is second in school history behind Steve Thomas, who scored 50 against Detroit in 1964. West's total was also the second highest for an A-10 regular-season game. Eric Riggins of Rutgers scored 51 against Penn State in 1987.
"There was a guy today that saved us, and his name is David West," said Xavier coach Thad Matta. "That was one of the best college performances that I have ever seen. He was spectacular."
West scored Xavier's first 13 points and had 22 at halftime. Dayton coach Oliver Purnell chose not to double-team West and left forward Keith Waleskowski on him throughout the game.
"It was the first time since my freshman year that I didn't get double-teamed," said West.
West got the ball in the post nearly every trip down the floor and patiently waited for a double team that rarely came. He then used a variety of post moves and made 13 of his 15 shots from within 5 feet of the basket. He won his second Blackburn-McCafferty Trophy, which goes to the Most Valuable Player of the Xavier-Dayton game.
"I could have played a lot tougher I guess," said Waleskowski, who tied a career high with 24 points but could do very little to stop West. "I don't know. I played terrible today."
But Dayton almost countered West's domination by running away at the start.
The Flyers converted several transition baskets in the first 10 minutes as Xavier failed to get back on defense. Dayton led 22-8 when Brooks Hall hit a 3-pointer on a fast break, prompting a timeout.
Xavier slowly closed the margin to within four points at halftime, 39-35, by going on an 18-6 run that featured two 3-pointers from Romain Sato, who finished with 16 points but suffered a concussion and was taken to a hospital after the game.
The Musketeers tied the score for the first time at 44-44 on a West layup. From then on, neither team led by more than five points until Xavier pulled away at the end by making free throws in the final minute.
There were six ties and 13 lead changes, all occurring in the second half. West recorded a career high when he scored his 32nd point to give Xavier a 53-52 lead with 12 minutes to play.
Four minutes later, Dayton went up by five, 65-60, when Hall hit another 3-pointer. Xavier responded with six straight points, four from West.
"At that point, it's anybody's ballgame," Purnell said. "But we had a couple of turnovers that cost us."
The lead changed six more times until West made a pair of free throws with 3:52 remaining, putting Xavier ahead for good at 73-72. He scored a layup the next time down, and Anthony Myles tipped in a miss with 1:17 to play that put XU ahead 77-72.
"I'm not sure if I've ever played this well in a game that meant so much," West said.
The victory means Xavier can win the A-10 West by winning its remaining seven games.
"Next Saturday, it's right back to it," Matta said, referring to the game against Rhode Island at Cintas. "I was appreciating (West's game) today.
"But when I go home tonight and watch the tape, I think I'll have a little more appreciation."
Team rebounds - 3.
Team rebounds - 4.
3-pointers - UD 8-21 (Hall 3-6, Waleskowski 3-6, Marshall 1-2, Jones 0-2, Stelly 1-4, Green 0-1), XU 6-15 (West 1-1, Sato 4-8, Finn 1-3, Chalmers 0-3). Technicals - None. Officials - Mayborg, Sanders, Gladden. Attendance - 10,250.
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