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
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
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
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
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