CINCINNATI (AP) — An emotional pregame pep talk. A record home winning streak. Xavier had it all going in a long-awaited rematch of teams that shared the Atlantic 10 title last season.
It showed in the Musketeers’ offense.
Tu Holloway scored 21 points and Mark Lyons added 19, helping Xavier beat Temple 88-77 on Saturday to remain perfect in league play and take sole possession of one of its records.
Xavier (13-5, 5-0) won its 35th straight A-10 home game, moving one ahead of Temple (13-5, 3-2) for the league record. The Owls won 34 in a row from 1987-91.
Now, Xavier holds the standard for home excellence.
“Aw right!” coach Chris Mack said. “That’s great. It’s neat to be a part of it. It’s something our guys take a lot of pride in.”
Xavier’s two fast-paced guards led an offense that rolled up the most points this season against the conference’s stingiest defensive team. The Musketeers shot 52.5 percent (31 of 59) against a defense that hadn’t allowed more than 78 points in a game and has held 11 teams under 60 points.
“Our transition defense was as bad as it’s ever been,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Give credit to Xavier. They saw it and they took advantage of it.”
Xavier struggled on offense early this season, learning to play without Jordan Crawford, who went to the NBA. In the last few weeks, the offense has started to jell.
“We have a new phrase: ‘Together,”‘ Lyons said. “I hope you can see that because we can feel it.”
The Musketeers led most of the way. Temple had a pair of one-point leads that lasted a total of 41 seconds. Scootie Randall led Temple with a career-high 28 points. The Owls stayed in it by making a season-high 11 3s.
“This is a tough place to play,” Randall said. “The fans are right in front of you and they’re on you the entire 40 minutes. With a team like Xavier, when you get even with them, you can’t take a step back. That’s what we did.”
The Musketeers wore throwback uniforms in honor of forward Brian Grant, whose jersey was retired at halftime. Grant graduated from Xavier in 1992, played a dozen years in the NBA and is coping with Parkinson’s disease.
Grant talked to the Musketeers in their locker room before the game, adding emotion to a game already loaded with drama. The two teams have ruled the conference lately. Xavier has won at least a share of the last four regular-season titles. Temple has won the last three A-10 tournaments.
Grant’s talk helped the Musketeers get off to a fast start in the rematch.
“It was very emotional,” said Andrew Taylor, who had seven points. “He said to seize the moment. We really wanted to come out and win this one for him.”
Xavier pulled out to a 16-8 lead. Holloway got a rebound, drove the length of the court and made a finger-roll layup to complete the run.
Randall was the only Owl who could hit a shot at the outset. He scored Temple’s first 10 points and made five of his first six shots. His 3-pointer gave Temple its only lead of the half, 29-28, and left him with 17 points, one shy of his previous career high.
Temple is second-worst in the A-10 at shooting from behind the arc, making only 31 percent. The Owls stayed in it with an uncharacteristic flurry of 3s, making 8 of 14 in the first half, which ended with Xavier ahead 41-39.
Grant got choked up on the court at halftime when a banner with his No. 33 jersey was unveiled from a rafter next to those of Byron Larkin, Tyrone Hill and David West. Grant called it the greatest honor he’s received.
Xavier broke open a back-and-forth second half by going on a 10-0 run. Lyons and Dante Jackson had 3s during the run, which put the Musketeers up 61-51 with 10:53 left.
Randall led the Owls back again. He had two fastbreak baskets and a 3-pointer during an 11-1 spurt that tied it at 66. Khalif Wyatt’s 3 gave the Owls their only lead of the second half, 69-68, with 5:30 left.
Holloway made a left-hand scoop shot off a crossover dribble, and Jackson had a steal and layup that put Xavier back in control 75-69 with 3:59 to go.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)