CINCINNATI — Another big second-half lead had evaporated against a ranked team that sensed it was about to pull away. Xavier's players huddled, looked at each other and made a group decision.
No, they weren't going to fritter away another one.
Brad Redford hit a long 3-pointer for the lead after Xavier wasted a 13-point advantage, and the short-handed Musketeers beat No. 19 Memphis 64-62 on Tuesday night, ending the Tigers' 18-game winning streak.
Xavier (16-11) made good on its second straight chance to beat a ranked team at home. The Musketeers blew a 17-point lead in the second half before losing to then-No. 24 Virginia Commonwealth 75-71 on Saturday.
That loss stung a lot and was still in their minds after Memphis (24-4) pulled ahead in the second half.
"We came into the huddle and talked about how we were not going to let it happen like it did against VCU," forward Isaiah Philmore said. "We had a bad feeling after that game."
Xavier was missing point guard Dee Davis, who was recovering from a head injury suffered against VCU.
Travis Taylor had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Xavier, whose 45-36 advantage in rebounds led to 18 second-chance points.
Xavier's depth took another hit when Philmore got a bloody nose in the first half, forcing him to the bench for several minutes.
"I love these kids," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "They won't win every game, but they play their tails off. We're not the most talented group. We believe in one another. We're far from perfect, but I don't know how you can't be a fan of our team with the effort they put in every single night."
The sluggish Tigers scored only 20 points in the first half – their lowest-scoring half of the season – and were dominated on the boards, ending a couple of notable streaks. Their 18-game winning streak was tied with Akron for longest in the nation.
Memphis was the only Division I school that hadn't lost a road game this season. The Tigers had won 11 straight on the road overall, the nation's longest active streak.
Xavier's dominance on the front line made the difference. The Tigers managed only four points off rebounds the entire game.
"We knew how big and physical they were," Taylor said. "Coach made it a big challenge to give them no second chances."
Johnson made three 3s that helped the Tigers overcome that 13-point deficit in the second half. D.J. Stephens made the first of his two free throws with seven-tenths of a second left, but failed to hit the rim while purposely missing the second shot, clinching it for Xavier.
The Musketeers unraveled in the second half against VCU's press. It didn't help that Davis left the game with 13:35 to play after bumping foreheads with a VCU player.
Davis was still suffering effects of the collision and didn't suit up Tuesday, leaving Xavier without a proven ball handler. Shooting guard Semaj Christon – a freshman who leads the Musketeers with 15 points per game – had to handle the ball after Davis got hurt against VCU and finished with 10 turnovers. He had only one on Tuesday.
The home-court advantage helped as well. Xavier hasn't lost two straight home games since 2005-06.
Taylor set the tone early, helping Xavier take a 19-10 lead. He had 11 points and six rebounds in the first 12 minutes.
Christon's jumper pushed the lead to 27-15, taking advantage of Memphis' stretch of 5:35 without a point.
Xavier pushed the lead to 13 points before Memphis started trapping, got a little energy on defense and got back into the game. Tarik Black had a putback – Memphis' first points off a rebound – and Johnson had a steal that led to a three-point play and cut the lead to 37-31.
The Tigers finally found their shooting touch, hitting four straight 3s to erase the rest of a 13-point deficit and tie it 45-all with 7:46 left. Johnson hit a fall-away 3-pointer for the Tigers' first lead, 50-49, with 6:26 to go.
There were four lead changes, with Redford's long 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead to stay, 58-57. Redford was fouled and made two free throws with 14.4 seconds to go for a 63-59 lead.
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