CINCINNATI (AP) -- Steven Smith scored 23 points Saturday, and La
Salle held on for a 79-70 victory over Xavier, which lost senior
forward Brian Thornton to a broken ankle.
With its fifth straight win, La Salle (15-7, 7-4 Atlantic 10)
clinched its first winning season in 13 years.Thornton, who leads Xavier (14-7, 5-5) in scoring and
rebounding, broke his right ankle while going for a loose ball with
7:35 left in the first half. Coach Sean Miller said Thornton, who
has been the conference's player of the week four times, will miss
the rest of the season.When Thornton went out, Xavier fell behind and never caught up.
There were seven lead changes in the first half, but La Salle took
advantage of Thornton's absence and pulled ahead 58-43 on Darnell
Harris' 3-pointer midway through the second half.Stanley Burrell made eight consecutive points for Xavier during
a 10-3 run that cut the lead to 67-65 with four minutes to play.
Xavier got the ball back with a chance to pull ahead, but Justin
Doellman's 3-pointer rimmed out.Smith made a pair of free throws to stop the comeback and went
6-of-6 from the line in the closing minutes. Smith also had a
game-high 11 rebounds for La Salle, which dominated the boards
44-31. Harris and Jermaine Thomas added 18 points apiece for the
Explorers.Xavier missed its last five 3-point attempts after getting the
lead down to two, finishing 6-of-26 from behind the arc. Without
Thornton on the front line, Xavier ended up shooting and missing
from the perimeter.Burrell led Xavier with 15 points. Thornton, who averages 15.7
points and 7.1 rebounds, had eight points when he got hurt.