CINCINNATI – Brad Redford’s clutch free throws helped Xavier avoid being outhustled into an embarrassing upset loss at home.
Redford sank both ends of a bonus free throw situation with 37.1 seconds left and Xavier held on for a 61-59 win over pesky Robert Morris on Saturday.
Redford, previously scoreless for the game, was fouled by Lucky Jones after a ball fake in the corner and made both free throws.
“Making shots, especially free throws, is the expectation here,” said Redford, who was 0 for 5 from the field. “Even though I hadn’t made a shot during the game, I had to go to the line with the confidence that I would knock those shots down.”
The Colonials (1-3) called two timeouts after regaining possession, but Karvel Anderson missed a 3-pointer from the left wing with 12 seconds left.
Robert Morris maintained possession after a held ball, but Velton Jones couldn’t connect on a leaner and Coron Williams missed a desperation 3-pointer as he was falling out of bounds.
That last possession was symbolic of why Robert Morris was able to stay in the game, said Xavier coach Chris Mack, who called the contest “a nail biter at Cintas.”
“Robert Morris was unbelievably tough – physical,” Mack said. “On every loose ball, they were the first to hit the floor. Moments like this make you more believable as a coach.”
The Musketeers were caught off-guard by the Colonials’ energy, said Justin Martin, who scored a career-high 17 points for Xavier.
“Their first step to loose balls and long rebounds was quicker than ours,” Martin said. “We came out flat, and it hurt us in the long run.”
Dee Davis added 15 for the Musketeers (3-0), and freshman Semaj Christon, who set Xavier’s single-game freshman assist record with eight in the Musketeers’ 62-47 win over Butler on Tuesday, finished with 12 and a team-high six assists in just his second career game and first start. Christon missed Xavier’s opener while recovering from an infection.
“He’s still 80-90 percent,” Mack said. “I don’t feel like he’s got his pullup (jumper) yet, but you saw his burst. He’s got to take better care of the basketball.”
Martin, who scored a combined 21 points in Xavier’s first two games, was 6 of 9 from the field, including a career-high four 3-pointers in six tries.
“I had the same mindset I have for every game,” he said. “This game, the shots were falling. I got into a rhythm and tried to keep it going the whole game.”
The Musketeers overcame a season-high 15 turnovers to go 3-0 for the fifth straight season and improved to 4-0 in their series against Robert Morris (1-3).
Anderson led the upset-minded Colonials with a career-high 17 points. Velton Jones added 15 for Robert Morris.
Xavier led by as many as eight points, 43-35, on a Jeff Robinson dunk with 15:48 left in the game, but the Colonials came back to tie the score twice in the final 3:49, the second at 59-59 on a jumper by Velton Jones with 1:51 left in the game.
The Colonials, who made just 16 of 70 3-pointers over their first three games, sank their first five and 6 of 9 in the first half, and led 19-17 with 12:28 left before halftime. Xavier countered by shooting a sizzling 65 percent (13 of 20) from the field to lead by as many as seven, 26-19, with 8:31 left before settling for a 36-31 halftime advantage on Davis’s 3-pointer with 1 second left.
The Musketeers never trailed after Christon’s driving layup gave them a 21-19 lead with 11:01 left in the first half.