The Musketeers survived a furious upset attempt by a gutty Robert Morris team on Saturday afternoon at the Cintas Center, defeating the Colonials 61-59 on a game that wasn't decided until a final Robert Morris heave barely missed short off the front rim as the buzzer sounded.
Sophomore wing Justin Martin scored a team, and career, high 17 points for Xavier, as the Musketeers moved past Robert Morris to advance to 3-0 on the season headed into next week's trip to Anaheim. Martin tallied 11 of those points in the first half, scoring on open three-point shots, and aggressive baseline drives in traffic.
Making his first start of the season, while Erik Stenger moved over to the sixth man role, freshman point guard Semaj Christon got the game started with a pretty assist to Travis Taylor for a dunk to open up a strong offensive half for both teams.
Both the Musketeers and the Colonials shot the ball well early on, especially Robert Morris who knocked in their first five three-point attempts, leading to a 19-19 tie with 11:00 to go in the half.
But then the end of a 9-0 Xavier run gave the Musketeers their biggest lead of the half, at 26-19, with 8:50 to go in the half, capped by another layup from Justin Martin.
The Musketeers played with a quick tempo in the first half, and eventually went on to claim a 36-31 lead at the intermission, behind a Dee Davis three-point basket, assisted by Semaj Christon, at the buzzer.
Xavier shot an impressive 65% in the first half, but allowed RMU to stay close by giving up six total three-point baskets, and turning the ball over 9 times.
The second half saw RMU switch back and forth between their man to man and 2-3 zone defense, as the Colonials trickery led them to the first four points of the half to pull within one. From there the Musketeers put on a 7-0 run, finished off with an exclamation point dunk by Jeff Robinson, to open their lead back up to 43-35 with 15:37 to play in the game.
When passionate guard Velton Jones was sidelined briefly with a head injury, right after knocking in a three to pull the Colonials back within one possession, the two teams traded baskets over the next four minutes.
Then, coming out of a timeout, Semaj Christon found Justin Martin for a three-point dagger in the corner, the last basket that Martin would score in the game, to give Xavier a 48-42 lead with just 12:22 to go.
More baskets were traded, as the Colonials simply refused to go away, until the first of two critical calls occurred with 4:18 to go.
The scorers table chose to reset the shot-clock on a loose ball scramble, leading to a RMU three-pointer that brought the Colonials deficit down to just 57-55.
Moments later, Karvel Anderson knocked down a jumper to tie the game at 57-57, the first tie since way back at 19-19.
Jeff Robinson quickly gave Xavier their lead back at 59-57 with a short jumper in the lane, until Velton Jones hit another jumper with just 1:48 to go to tie the game at 59-59; which was the last field goal of the game.
With Semaj Christon on the bench since the 4:18 mark due to cramping in his leg, Xavier got the ball to Brad Redford, who was able to draw a foul to go to the line for one and one with just :37 left in the contest.
Redford knocked both shots down, the last two points of the game, to give Xavier the 61-59 lead that they would eventually cling on to.
RMU did not go down without trying however.
After getting an offensive rebound, then almost going out of bounds on the inbounds pass on the ensuing jump-ball, the Colonials eventually had a baseline out of play with 7.7 seconds to go underneath the Xavier basket, and still trailing by just two.
The Colonials got off one shot in the lane, then a long three-point heave at the buzzer, but neither would fall, and Xavier held on for the 61-59 win.
In addition to Martin's 17 points, Xavier got 15 points and 3 assists from Dee Davis and 12 points and 6 assists from Semaj Christon. Travis Taylor added 8 points and 7 rebounds for the Musketeers, while Jeff Robinson scored 7 points with 4 rebounds.
Brad Redford struggled from the floor, shooting 0-5 from three-point range, but provided the final two free throws which eventually gave Xavier the win.
Robert Morris was led by the 17 points of Karvel Anderson and the 15 points of Velton Jones.
For the game, the Musketeers were again efficient from the field, shooting 52%, but struggled from the foul line at just 11/17 and turned the ball over 15 times.
RMU stayed in the game by making nine total three-point shots, and outscoring Xavier with their bench play by a count of 17-2.
After the game, Xavier coach Chris Mack was both visibly and vocally upset with his team's performance, telling Fox Sports that, "Robert Morris simply wanted it more than we did today."
Regardless of the margin, the Musketeers did get the win, and will be undefeated heading into next week's trip out west.