WEST HAVEN >> Opponents know that Xavier guard Elijah Pemberton is tough enough to contain. Add anyone inside to the offensive mix and the Falcons are tough to beat.
On Friday night, forward Brandon MacPherson proved to be almost as unstoppable as Pemberton. The senior forward finished with 19 points, and Xavier was able to beat Notre Dame-West Haven 69-55 at Alumni Hall.
”There is one less guy in the paint if I take it to the basket because they are out covering Elijah and Thomas (Jackson, the other backcourt starter),” MacPherson said. “We are athletic and big, so we can try to keep teams out of the paint.”
The Falcons (11-4, 5-1) remained in second place in the SCC Quinnipiac Division, one game behind top-ranked Fairfield Prep. They host West Haven Sunday at 3 p.m. before hosting Fairfield Prep Tuesday. Pemberton missed the first matchup at Prep while battling the flu.
Xavier was able to sweep the season series from the Green Knights (11-5, 3-4).
Pemberton (game-high 22 points) didn’t miss from the floor or the free throw line until there was 1:20 left before halftime. Xavier, which scored the game’s first seven points, led 31-19 at halftime.
“When I get in certain zones, I feel like I can’t be stopped,” Pemberton said.
Not only were the Falcons scoring at will, they held a significant rebounding advantage (22-9) in the opening half. Their matchup zone kept Notre Dame’s shots mainly from the perimeter.
“They shoot a lot of threes, so we know there will be long rebounds,” Xavier coach Mike Kohs said. “We thought we could control it inside, so if we don’t give them anything easy and rebound the ball, it would result in a win.”
Said Notre Dame coach Jason Shea: “We’ve seen them seven or eight times and we haven’t seen them quite hit on all cylinders like that. They shot the ball far better than we have seen them shoot it. It certainly makes it difficult if they shoot the ball well with their size. If we really have to extend out (on defense), it opens things up inside.”
Tahj Eaddy, who led the Green Knights with 21 points, had nine points in the third quarter to help Notre Dame cut the deficit to 41-35. That was the only time the home crowd at Alumni Hall really was a factor in the game.
But MacPherson scored the last six points of the third quarter to get the advantage back into double digits.
“He is basically this year’s James Sullivan (a former teammate), so even if I have an off-game he will have a great game.”
Lonnie Blackwell finished with 16 points for Notre Dame, which raised over $2,500 for its Notre Dame Supports Coaches vs. Cancer Cause Friday evening.
XAVIER 69, NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN 55
(at Notre Dame-West Haven)
Xavier 16 15 18 20 -69
Notre Dame-West Haven 7 12 19 17-55
Tom Jackson 2 2-4 6, Joe McCormick 3 0-0 7, Kaleb Lutton 5 0-0 10, John Habeaski 0 0-0 0, Elijah Pemberton 6 8-9 22, Alex White 1 3-4 5, Brandon MacPherson 7 4-4 19. Totals: 24 17-21 69
NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN (55)
Tahj Eaddy 8 2-3 21, Kalane Ham 0 0-0 0, Karim Cisse 3 0-0 7, Alexander Puzone 2 1-2 6, Ben Bagnoli 2 0-0 5, Lonnie Blackwell 6 2-2 16. Totals: 21 5-7 55
3-point goals: Xavier 4 (McCormick 1, Pemberton 2, MacPherson 1); Notre Dame-West Haven 8 (Eaddy 3, Cisse 1, Puzone 1, Bagnoli 1, Blackwell 2); Records: Xavier 11-4 (5-1 SCC Quinnipuac)0-0; Notre Dame-West Haven 11-5 (3-4)