CINCINNATI -- Semaj Christon scored 18 points, and short-handed Xavier -- playing with two starters sidelined by injury -- never trailed as the Musketeers used all of their depth and beat cold-shooting Tennessee 67-63 on Tuesday night.
Xavier (2-0) led by as many as 10 points in the first half, when the Volunteers (0-1) couldn't make any sort of basket consistently. The Volunteers got within two points in the second half, but Xavier pushed it back to 10 and held on. Myles Davis made four free throws in the final 13 seconds to close it out.
Tennessee had won 14 straight season openers. They opened on the road for the first time since 2004, and it didn't go well at all. Jordan McRae led Tennessee with 23 points.
The two teams could be playing again in a couple of weeks. They're sharing a charter flight to the Bahamas for a tournament over Thanksgiving weekend.
The Musketeers were missing two starters.
Forward Justin Martin, one of the Musketeers' three returning starters, was hit in the head late in an opening win over Gardner-Webb on Friday night and left the court woozy. He was in sweats on the bench Tuesday.
Point guard Dee Davis is recovering from a concussion suffered during Xavier's scrimmage. Davis suited up and warmed up but didn't play, leaving it to freshman point guard Brandon Randolph to run the offense for the second straight game.
Randolph had five points and four assists.
Xavier is 175-25 in 14 seasons at the Cintas Center, including 84-12 against nonconference opponents. Tennessee won on the Musketeers' court in 2007 and had won the last four games between the teams.
Senior forward Jeronne Maymon was back for the Volunteers after missing last season with an injured left knee. He led the Vols in scoring (14.2 points) and rebounding (7.9) in Southeastern Conference games as a junior. He finished with seven points and 10 rebounds.
Maymon scored Tennessee's first three points, but couldn't make another shot in the half. The rest of the Vols struggled even worse -- Tennessee missed its first five shots and 16 of its first 17.
Xavier took advantage and pulled out to a quick 14-4 lead. The Musketeers repeatedly missed close-up shots -- including a breakaway dunk -- that could have padded the lead.
McRae, who averaged 15.7 points last season, got Tennessee out of its slump by hitting a 3-pointer and a driving layup. The rest of the Volunteers weren't able to make any sort of shot consistently as Xavier led for the entire half, taking a 27-20 lead into the break.
McRae had a game-high 13 points at halftime. The rest of the Volunteers were a combined 3 of 20 from the field and 1 of 8 on free throws.
Josh Richardson found his touch at the start of the second half, hitting a pair of 3s and two free throws. Antonio Barton's steal and layup and 3-pointer cut the lead to 39-37 with 13 minutes left. Myles' Davis 3-pointer started a 7-2 spurt that rebuilt Xavier's lead.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay