Amber Harris returns from concussion to lead No. 9 Xavier

CINCINNATI -- Amber Harris' headaches are gone.

Fully recovered from a mild concussion, the multifaceted forward put her entire game on display Sunday, scoring 23 points as part of a double-double while steadying No. 9 Xavier to a 63-59 win over Dayton.

One player made the difference in the Atlantic 10 opener for both teams.

"Her effort, intensity, concentration were terrific today," coach Kevin McGuff said. "Certainly she's a great player and had a lot to do with the outcome."

With its guards struggling through a rough shooting day, Xavier (12-2, 1-0) found itself trailing by five late in the first half. Harris took the lead role in keeping the streak intact, showing no effects from the concussion that has slowed her lately.

She got hurt during a one-point loss at Duke and was limited in a blowout loss at Stanford. She was still having headaches during practice leading up to an 83-51 win over Missouri on Wednesday, forcing her out of the starting lineup.

In the last few days, she's been back to normal.

"I did feel pretty good," said Harris, who also had 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 38 minutes. "I don't have any headaches. Everything is going really well. It's time to get back to doing what I usually do."

The Flyers (9-6, 0-1) couldn't handle Harris, who outscored them with nine points during an opening 21-7 run. Given an open 3-pointer from the top of the arc, Harris swished it.

The Flyers lead the league in scoring, averaging 81.9 points, and finally got rolling behind Kari Daugherty, who went 5 of 10 from behind the arc and finished with 19 points. The Flyers led by as many as five late in the half, which ended in a 31-all tie.

There were three ties and five lead changes before Xavier's slumping perimeter shooters finally came through. Megan Askew had a bank shot and a steal and layup, and Katie Rutan -- 0 for 4 from behind the arc to start the game -- connected twice for a 55-44 lead.

Daugherty's 3-pointer started a surge that got it down to 55-52 with 5:48 left. Given Xavier's struggles on the perimeter -- 4 of 21 from behind the arc overall -- the Musketeers went to their best option. Harris hit three consecutive jumpers for a 61-55 advantage with 2:07 left.

"When we're not hitting, it's important that we pound the ball inside," Askew said.

Samantha MacKay's driving bank shot high off the backboard cut it to 61-59 with 26.5 seconds left. Unable to get a steal, Dayton fouled Harris with 9.7 seconds to go. Uncharacteristically, she missed the front end of the bonus, but Askew tied up the ball on the rebound and Xavier maintained possession.

"Megan's energy means a lot to our team," McGuff said. "That play at the end is a reflection. When she plays hard, good things happen for us. That was a huge play for us."

Dayton fouled Harris again with 7.5 seconds left, and this time she hit both free throws to clinch it.

"She looked like the Amber of old," said Askew, who had eight points, four rebounds and three assists. "When she's competing like that, we're in a much better place."

Center Ta'Shia Phillips had 14 points and 13 rebounds, helping Xavier dominate the boards 45-32. The Musketeers shot only 34 percent from the field, keeping it close.

Dayton likes to push the pace and get off a quick shot, but struggled against Xavier's half-court defense. The Flyers have topped 100 points three times and 90 points six times already this season, but were held under 60 for only the second time.

Dayton has dropped its last three and five of its last six against Xavier.

"I'm not going to walk out of here with my head down," coach Jim Jabir said. "I thought we played well. There's going to be periods when you're playing the No. 9 team and you struggle, and they took advantage of it. You have to play a near-perfect game against them."