LOWELL, Mass. (AP) - Ta'Shia Phillips needed to have a big day
with teammate Amber Harris struggling through her worst shooting
game of the season.
Phillips scored 26 points, including the go-ahead basket with
1:31 to play, and No. 5 Xavier pulled away in the closing minutes
for a 67-60 win over Dayton in the A10 tournament title game
The performance earned Phillips the tourney's most outstanding
"Ta'Shia was phenomenal," Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said. "If
there's a better low post player than her, I've never seen it. You
look at the minutes she played today after three straight days, its
Xavier, which won the A10 tourney title for the fourth time in
five years, earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney, the
Musketeers' fourth straight trip.
Special Jennings had 17 points and Harris, the Atlantic 10
player of the year, overcame her rough shooting day to score 12 for
"Harris has a lot of awe in her game and a lot of flash, but I
think the player that makes them go is Phillips," Dayton coach Jim
Jabir said. "Look at her numbers. She had 26 points and we were
hanging on her all day."
Justine Raterman, who played with a sore knee she said she
tweaked a few times, led the Flyers (21-11) with 19 points. Kristin
Daugherty added 12.
After Raterman's jumper tied it 60 with 2 minutes left,
Phillips, who went 11 of 19 from the floor, scored in the lane.
Harris then hit the first of two free throws before the Musketeers
got the rebound on the miss.
"We actually had two plays called," McGuff said. "Special is
an amazing point guard to be able to zip that pass into Ta'Shia."
Harris, Xavier's scoring leader, went just 5 for 17 from the
Phillips, who logged 39 minutes, then nailed two from the line
to help seal it.
"They make my life so much easier," Jennings said of her two
Harris' short jumper in the lane triggered a 6-0 run as the
Musketeers opened their largest lead of the game, 58-53 with 3:46
to play. Phillips then followed with two free throws before Harris
hit a turnaround jumper.
Like in the first half, Dayton constantly fronted and
double-teamed the 6-foot-5 Harris, making it tough for her to get
the ball in good scoring spots. But, when they needed scoring
inside, Phillips was there.
"We did a pretty decent job of rotating defenses and a pretty
decent job doubling, but she ended up with 26," Jabir said.
"She's a great player. I think she's their best player."
The Flyers took a 38-30 lead on Daugherty's jumper from the top
of the key 2 minutes into the second half before the Musketeers
picked up the defensive pressure, sparking an 11-3 run that tied it
at 41 on Harris' fastbreak layup off a turnover with just over 13
minutes to play.
Xavier, which moved up a spot in this week's AP poll and entered
the day with the nation's best scoring defense, limiting opponents
to 55.3 points per game.
Neither team held more than a two-point edge over next 8½
minutes and the lead changed hands six times.
Dayton, which entered as the conference's highest scoring team,
looked as if it could blow Xavier out of the building at the start,
pulling to an 11-2 lead in the game's opening 5 minutes.
The Flyers, making their first appearance in the A10 title game,
frustrated the Musketeers' low-post tandem of Harris and Phillips,
constantly double teaming whenever the ball went to them in the
paint and forcing them to take contested shots.
Harris, who entered fifth in the nation in scoring at 19.0
points per game, finally got her first basket of the game on a
short jumper in the lane with just over 6 minutes left in the
opening half as Xavier climbed back, closing it to 22-20.
But Raterman, who scored 15 points in the opening half mostly by
driving past her defender, nailed a 3 from the left wing and
followed that with a a baseline drive for a basket.
Harris missed her first three shots from the floor and started 1
"I think they had a good defensive strategy, but I still have
to make shots," Harris said.
Luckily for the Musketeers, while Harris was shut down the
6-foot-6 Phillips was carrying the team offensively. She scored 16
points on 8 of 12 shooting.
Xavier won the first two meetings of the season between the
teams by four points each time, the second in overtime at Dayton on
Dayton advanced to the final by upsetting second-seeded Temple