Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 2/23/13
For 22 minutes, Xavier was able to overcome, handle and dominate Havoc Saturday afternoon. Up 17 points in the second half, however, wasn't enough for the Musketeers, as No. 24 Virginia Commonwealth shot 53 percent in the second half, including making six three-pointers, and converted 22 Xavier turnovers into 23 points in a 75-71 win at the Cintas Center. Havoc is the name for VCU's relentless style of play under coach Shaka Smart. The Rams came into the game leading the nation in steals per game and turnovers forced per game. They improved to 22-6 overall and 10-3 in the Atlantic 10 by living up to their reputation and harassing Xavier ball-handlers which didn't include sophomore guard Dee Davis for the final 13:35 throughout the game. If it wasn't already the case, the Musketeers' NCAA tournament hopes are now a scenario where nothing less than an A-10 tournament championship will suffice. Xavier (15-11, 8-5) is in fifth place in the conference, a half-game behind La Salle (8-4), and still has conference games at home against Massachusetts (7-6) and league-leading Saint Louis (10-2) before closing out the regular season at third-place Butler (9-4) on March 9. Those games follow Tuesday's non-conference matchup at home with No. 22 Memphis. "There was a lot of build-up in our locker room about being able to play Butler down the stretch for the A-10 regular-season championship," said Xavier coach Chris Mack. "It's not to be anymore, but we're still playing for a top-four seed. The regular season is going to shake out in the last week of the season." It was just the second loss for Xavier at home in its last 54 A-10 conference games. The 22 turnovers were a season-high for the Musketeers, who came in averaging 12.7 turnovers. They had committed as many as 20 turnovers just one other time this season, in a 66-59 loss at Wake Forest. Freshman Semaj Christon committed 10 turnovers, including seven in the second half. Davis left the game after a collision with VCU's Melvin Johnson. Trainers attended to Davis on the bench, looking at his head, before taking him to the locker room. He never returned to the bench. Mack said he didn't know the exact nature of the injury but Davis' availability for the Memphis game would be 50-50. Davis had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists when he left the game. He had committed five turnovers, but taking a ball-handler off the court further played into VCU's favor. The Rams started their comeback with a pair of three-pointers from Troy Daniels, who finished with a game-high 19 points, that ignited a 10-0 run and cut Xavier's big lead to 43-36. "It was a huge turning point," said Daniels. "That's what I do on my team; that's my job." The Musketeers led at halftime, 39-26, despite committing 10 turnovers. When they weren't losing control of the ball, they were generally putting it in the bucket, shooting 73.7 percent from the field (14 of 19). Xavier's defense also limited VCU to 30.3 percent shooting (10 of 33) with just two three-pointers in 17 attempts. VCU has forced turnovers on 29 percent of its defensive possessions this season, and that wore on Xavier. The Rams took 23 more shots than Xavier did and out-rebounded Xavier, 32-29. That includes 13 offensive rebounds. VCU made 17 of 32 shots in the second half, while Xavier was just 9 of 23 (39.1 percent). Davis was one of five Musketeers in double figures; Brad Redford had five three-pointers to account for his 15 points, while Justin Martin, Christon and Isaiah Philmore each had 11 points. Xavier did a lot of good things against Havoc on Saturday, but it wasn't enough. VCU didn't take its first lead until 50-48 with 10:43 left in the game. Xavier and the Rams would take turns leading eight more times before VCU put the game away on a pair of free throws with 0:11 left. While mathematically Xavier isn't eliminated from the winning the A-10 regular season, Saturday's loss will force it to put all of its NCAA hopes into the A-10 tournament. Five losses to teams with RPI rankings of 118 or worse have left Xavier no margin for error.
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