CINCINNATI - Two losses that cost Xavier a lot of sleep and its precious national ranking put the Musketeers in a nasty mood. It showed in their attitude.
Justin Doellman scored 19 points and Justin Cage added 17 on Saturday, helping Xavier recover from back-to-back losses with a 76-58 victory over Arizona State.
Xavier (8-3) used its balance to hold the lead for most of the game, then pulled away with a closing 17-5 run that featured points from six players and showed some grit — the thing most lacking in those two defeats.
“It starts with the older guys,” said Doellman, a senior forward. “We wanted to come out and let the other team know it’s going to be a physical game.”
The victory ended a tumultuous eight days for Xavier. The Musketeers had moved into the Top 25 for the first time in more than three years, only to lose at Creighton and then at crosstown rival Cincinnati in a five-day span.
“I don’t think any of us slept well after that game,” guard Stanley Burrell said, referring to the 10-point loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday. “We wanted to come out and bounce back.”
It was the first double-digit loss this season for ASU (4-4), a young team that uses four freshmen in its lineup rotation.
Senior forward Serge Angounou matched his career high with 23 points, keeping the Sun Devils within striking distance until Xavier pulled away in the closing minutes. Freshman guard Christian Polk, the Sun Devils’ leading scorer with 17.7 points per game, was held to a season-low four points on 1-of-10 shooting.
“They present some incredible matchup challenges. Over the course of a season, you’re going to have some off nights, but time has proven they can shoot the basketball,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
Xavier led by a small margin for most of the first half. Burrell scored off a drive to the basket and had a steal and layup during a 15-3 run that closed the first half and gave Xavier a 38-26 lead, its biggest to that point.
Angounou scored 14 points in the first half, matching his previous season high. His 3-pointer completed a 9-2 run that opened the second half and cut it to 40-35.
Cage blunted the comeback by scoring Xavier’s next seven points, including a three-point play off a putback. Doellman’s two free throws rebuilt the lead to 12 points, 59-47, midway through the second half.
Polk’s 3-pointer — his first basket after five misses — started ASU’s final surge. His free throw cut it to 61-56 with 6:06 to go.
Reserve point guard Johnny Wolf ended that comeback by hitting a 3-pointer over ASU’s zone defense, getting the rebound off Polk’s missed shot and passing ahead to Derrick Brown for a fast-break dunk.