Xavier shoots 50 percent from field to pick up sixth straight win

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Xavier had a simple game plan against Charlotte -- win the rebounding battle.

The No. 7 Musketeers accomplished that and more, overcoming a slow start to beat the 49ers 82-61 in an Atlantic 10 Conference game Saturday night.

Amber Harris had 27 points and 12 rebounds, and Ta'Shia Phillips added her own double-double with 22 points and 13 boards for Xavier (16-2, 5-0), which won its sixth consecutive game.

"Right before the game, coach [Kevin McGuff] said he wanted that rebounding margin," Phillips said. "Rebounding is key for us with the kind of team we have and the size we have. ... So that's what we did. We went in there looking to get every rebound."

The Musketeers, who have been ranked in the Top 25 for 61 consecutive weeks and rose as high as No. 4 earlier this season, shot 50 percent from the field.

Yet it was rebounding that made the difference Saturday. Charlotte (15-5, 3-2) entered as the conference leader in rebounding (46 per game) and rebounding differential (11.2 per game), but Harris and Phillips led Xavier to a 45-30 edge Saturday.

"The rebounding was the key to the game," McGuff said after the Musketeers finished with a double-digit rebounding margin for the fifth straight game and 11th time this season. "Charlotte is really aggressive on the boards, but getting a plus-15 margin was really big."

This was the fifth straight game and the 11th time this season that the Musketeers have had a double-digit rebounding margin against an opponent.

"We didn't fare very well at all," Charlotte coach Karen Aston said. "I didn't think there would be that big of a difference in rebounding, but they definitely proved their point tonight -- they're the best team in the league, and they're the best rebounding team in the league."

Shannon McCallum scored 23 points and Epiphany Woodson added 13 for the 49ers (15-5, 3-2), who saw their three-game winning streak end.

However, it was Charlotte that got off to a strong start, scoring seven of the game's first nine points and pulling ahead 12-8 on McCallum's jumper with 14:23 left.

But the 49ers cooled off after that, going more than 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal. That allowed Xavier to break loose, with Phillips' layup with 8:04 left in the half putting the Musketeers up 21-12.

"We knew they were going to be tough because they're a good rebounding team," Harris said. "We just tried to match their intensity and play our game. They came out strong, so we had to come back stronger."

Charlotte managed to pull within five points three times in the closing minutes -- the last at 27-22 on McCallum's tip in with 2:08 left -- but Harris followed that with a 3-pointer and layup to push Xavier's lead to 32-22, its biggest of the half. The Musketeers would lead 32-25 at the half.

The 49ers put on another surge in the opening minutes of the second half, cutting Xavier's lead to 37-35 on Paige McCallum's 3-pointer with 16:35 left, and pulling within 47-43 on Shannon McCallum's jumper with 12:24 remaining.

Xavier responded with a 14-1 run, with Special Jennings' layup with 8:35 left giving the Musketeers a 63-44 lead.

Charlotte would put together one final run, scoring 10 unanswered points capped by Woodson's 3-pointer with 6:01 left to pull within 63-54. That's as close as the 49ers could get as the Musketeers scored 19 of the game's final 26 points over the final 5:49.