Fordham-Xavier Preview

With the schedule winding down, Atlantic 10-leading Xavier

continues to roll and finds itself in a familiar position.

A matchup with last-place Fordham isn’t likely to slow the

Musketeers down.

Seeking a 12th victory in 13 games, No. 24 Xavier will look for

a ninth consecutive win over the struggling Rams and 20th in 21

meetings Saturday night at the Cintas Center.

The Musketeers (19-6, 10-1) are in good shape to win at least a

share of a fifth consecutive regular-season A-10 championship. They

are a half-game ahead of Temple but won the only meeting with the

23rd-ranked Owls and have one fewer loss.

Xavier cruised to a 74-54 win at Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday

night behind Mark Lyons’ 24 points.

The Musketeers outrebounded the Hawks by 12 and held them to

30.9 percent shooting – the second-lowest mark by an opponent all

season.

Xavier, surrendering an average of 60.5 points during its

four-game win streak, allowed just two field goals in the first

13:32 of the second half.

“That’s just something that has been really big for us all year

really,” center Kenny Frease said of the team’s defensive play.

“That’s the core of our team, so when it comes down to it, that’s

what we need to be good at if we want to take this team to the

places we wanna go.”

Coach Chris Mack’s club should not have problems defending a

Fordham team averaging just 60.2 points during its 13-game losing

streak.

Frease recorded his second consecutive double-double with 17

points and 10 rebounds Wednesday. He’s averaging 7.1 boards to rank

ninth in the A-10 and teammate Jamel McLean grabs 8.7 per game to

rank second, helping Xavier to a conference-best 7.7 rebounding

margin in A-10 play.

“Rebounding sort of ties in with defense. When a team is

shooting one-and-done, that’s when they start getting less

confident in their shot,” Frease said. “I think rebounding is just

as important on defense as anything.”

Tu Holloway ranks second in the A-10 with 20.4 points per game

but will be looking to bounce back after shooting 2 of 10 from the

field and scoring 14 points against Saint Joseph’s. Holloway has

averaged just 8.0 points in four games versus Fordham.

Xavier had taken 11 straight from the Rams before falling 76-74

on the road Jan. 16, 2005. The Musketeers have since won eight

consecutive games in the series by an average of 24.8 points.

These teams haven’t played since last season, when Xavier won

the two meetings by an average of 37.0 points with McLean scoring

16 in each.

Despite leading by as many as 16 in the second half Sunday, the

Rams (6-17, 0-11) lost 76-70 to Saint Joseph’s and failed to snap

the longest active conference losing streak in the country.

Fordham has lost 37 consecutive A-10 games since defeating St.

Bonaventure on Jan. 28, 2009.

Chris Gaston, averaging a team-high 15.7 points, registered his

conference-leading 14th double-double with 14 points and 10

rebounds Sunday.

Since defeating then-No. 24 St. John’s on Dec. 9, 2000, Fordham

has lost 19 straight versus ranked teams by an average of 23.3

points.