Strong first-half defense leads Xavier's rout
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Freshman Dez Wells dunked his way to 16 points with nine rebounds, and Xavier's defense was back in form for the first time in a month, steadying the Musketeers to a 78-50 victory over Duquesne on Wednesday night.
Xavier (11-5, 2-1 Atlantic 10 Conference) got back-to-back wins since a brawl against rival Cincinnati on Dec. 10 resulted in suspensions and left a formerly No. 8 team struggling to regain its confidence and defensive toughness. The Musketeers were in the right place to do it -- the Cintas Center, where they've won a league-record 41 straight A-10 games.
Xavier pulled ahead 44-16 by halftime, the Musketeers' stingiest opening half in three years. It was by far the worst showing for Duquesne (10-7, 1-2), which led the A-10 in scoring at 77.7 points per game.
Four players reached double figures in Xavier's most lopsided win of the season. Tu Holloway had 11 points and 11 assists, and Xavier's taller front line dominated the boards 40-29.
Sean Johnson scored 12 for Duquesne, which had a season low in points and shot only 35 percent from the field.
The Dukes went only 2 of 15 with five turnovers while Xavier surged ahead 20-7. The Musketeers closed the half with a 24-7 spurt that featured two highlight alley-oop dunks by Wells off passes from Holloway and Mark Lyons. Reserve forward Jeff Robinson had a season-high 10 points in the half, helping the Musketeers dominate the smaller Dukes upfront.
Wells had another fast-break alley-oop dunk off a pass from Brad Redford in the second half.
In addition to fixing its defense, Xavier needed its point guard to get back in form. Holloway didn't score during a 67-59 win at Fordham on Saturday, and had gone 2 for 15 from the field in the last two games. He hadn't made a 3-pointer in any of the last three games, going 0 for 9 from behind the arc.
Holloway broke an 0-for-11 spell behind the arc with a step-back 3 that ended the decisive first half.
The Dukes were playing their first road game since Dec. 21, when they ended George Mason's 18-game home winning streak with a 75-64 victory. They couldn't do any of the things that made them the A-10's highest-scoring team coming into the game.
Sophomore guard T.J. McConnell leads the A-10 in assists, steals and 3-point shooting at 49 percent. He picked up his second foul less than 7 minutes into the game and never made much of an impact, finishing with four points and four assists. Duquesne swingman B.J. Monteiro missed his third game while recovering from a severe cut on his left hand.
Xavier coach Chris Mack used one crutch and moved carefully with a brace on his left leg. He tore the patella tendon while dunking at practice last Friday.