Men's Basketball - Sat, Jan. 28, 2006
CHICAGO - When the No. 24 ranked Saint Xavier University men's basketball team needed senior forward Jabari Saunders (Joliet, Ill./Township West) in its Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference match-up with league-leading Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), he always seemed to answer the call. Saunders finished with a game-high 23 points in addition to his eight rebounds and two blocked shots as the Cougars (15-8 overall/3-2 CCAC) picked up a thrilling 70-66 victory and handed the visiting Tigers (13-9 overall/4-1 CCAC) their first conference loss of the season Saturday at the Shannon Center in Chicago.
Besides Saunders, freshman guard Jason Genova (Chicago, Ill./Saint Patrick) also played well with 16 points and eight rebounds, while senior guard Jason Reiter (Lemont, Ill./Lemont) posted 12 points and dished out three assists. After shooting only 38 percent (11-for-29) in the first half, the Cougars came out firing after the break and shot an impressive 52 percent (13-for-25) from the field down the stretch to help secure the victory.
Saint Xavier started strong going ahead, 5-0, in the game's first minute. However, Olivet Nazarene recovered and tied the game, 12-12, at the 13-minute mark of the first half. The Tigers then went on a 19-10 scoring run to take a 31-22 lead with five minutes to play in the half. SXU was able to trim the deficit to six points, 38-32, at the halftime break. In the second half, ONU extended its lead early and led by as many as 16 points (57-41) with just over 13 minutes remaining in the ballgame.
However, Saunders and the Cougars were not to be denied. Saint Xavier slowly chipped away at the Olivet lead and, with 6:47 left to play, pulled to within one, 59-58, on a three-pointer at the top of the key by Saunders. After tying the score three times over the next four minutes, the Cougars took their first lead of the second half, 66-65, on a free throw by sophomore guard Matt Marino (Chicago, Ill./Saint Patrick) with 2:13 on the clock. A three-pointer by Genova with just over a minute remaining put SXU ahead, 69-65, and Saunders picked up both of his two blocked shots in the final minute to keep ONU from mounting a comeback.
SXU (15-8 overall, 3-2 CCAC) continues its CCAC slate by heading to South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday, February 1, to face Indiana University-South Bend. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. eastern time.