Xavier is sharing the ball, playing great and reaping the rewards.
Ranked for the first time in more than three years, the 24th-ranked Musketeers look to stay in the poll when they visit Creighton on Saturday.
Xavier (7-1) is off to its best start since opening 10-0 in 1996-97. The Musketeers have won three straight, including an 88-55 rout of Detroit on Tuesday in their first game as a ranked team since the 2003 NCAA tournament.
Xavier was ranked 12th in the final regular season poll of 2002-03, and hadn’t been back since. With a performance like Tuesday’s, the Musketeers figure to stay there for awhile.
“You look at the Indianapolis Colts,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “They’ve been undefeated (for long stretches) in the last two years, but on Sundays they’ve stepped up and stayed focused. We have to be that team.”
Xavier shot a season-high 59.3 percent on Tuesday, with center Josh Duncan scoring 25 points to lead the way. He was 9-for-11 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers, and the Musketeers shot 11-of-23 from 3-point range.
“We came out with the mind-set that we just wanted to shoot with confidence,” Duncan said. “We made that one more pass to find the open man, then shot it with confidence.”
The Musketeers, the only ranked team in the Atlantic 10, finished with 24 assists on 32 baskets and have 50 assists in their last two games. Before reaching 20 assists in its last two games, Xavier went 20 games without hitting that mark.
“We have an unselfish team right now,” Miller said. “That’s a great quality to have, no matter who you’re playing or what time of year it is.”
Miller can now get a handle on how his team performs on the road. The Musketeers played four games in the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but Saturday’s game is their first true road contest of the season.
Creighton (3-2) beat Xavier 61-59 at home last season and has won the last two games between the teams. None of the last three meetings have been decided by more than two points. The Musketeers lead the all-time series 7-5.
The Bluejays are 3-0 at home this season and were 15-2 at the Qwest Center in 2005-06, but the team is undergoing some shooting woes.
Creighton hit only 37 percent from the field in a 60-54 loss to Dayton on Wednesday, its third sub-40 percent outing of the season. The Bluejays were only 7-of-23 in the first half against the Flyers.
Bluejays coach Dana Altman is 5-9 against ranked teams since coming to Creighton and 4-2 at home. If he beats Xavier, he’ll set the school record for wins over ranked foes, breaking a tie with Eddie Sutton, who was 5-18 from 1969-74.
Creighton has won its only game against a ranked team at the Qwest Center, beating No. 24 Northern Iowa 63-55 on Jan. 31.