After cracking the Top 25 for the first time in nearly a year, Xavier is determined to stay around for a while.
The 23rd-ranked Musketeers look to continue their home dominance and try to stay ranked in consecutive weeks for the first time in nearly five years when they play host to Belmont on Saturday.
Xavier (5-1) pulled into the Top 25 after upsetting then-No. 8 Indiana 80-65 last Saturday in the Chicago Invitational Challenge. The Musketeers avoided a letdown by defeating Oakland 93-68 on Wednesday, but are hardly satisfied.
“We can’t be happy with a couple of wins,” senior forward Josh Duncan said. “We beat Indiana. We won tonight. But we can’t be happy.”
Xavier is trying to avoid a repeat performance of what happened last year when it was briefly ranked. The Musketeers entered the poll at No. 24 on Dec. 4, but then preceded to lose two of their next three games.
“We’ve been (ranked) four times since I’ve been here,” said senior guard Stanley Burrell, who scored 17 points on Wednesday. “And every single time we’ve lost our next game or two after that. We’re trying to stay in there for awhile now.”
A win over Belmont should be enough to keep the Musketeers in the Top 25 for consecutive weeks for the first time since they were ranked for seven straight weeks from Feb. 3-March 17, 2003.
Duncan led five Xavier players in double figures with 18 points and eight rebounds on Wednesday, while sophomore Derrick Brown matched a career high with 15 points and also had eight boards.
The Musketeers are winning with balanced scoring as six players are averaging double figures, led by Duncan with 13.7 points.
Xavier, which opened a four-game homestand with its win over Oakland, has won 11 straight at the Cintas Center.
The Musketeers have scored more than 90 points in all three of their home games this season, and are outscoring their opponents by an average of 35.0 points in those games. Xavier outrebounded Oakland 46-25, and is outrebounding its opponents by an average of 18.6 boards at home.
The Musketeers are 93-15 at the Cintas Center since it opened in 2000-01.
Belmont (5-2), meanwhile, is 3-1 on the road this season, including an 86-75 win over Cincinnati on Nov. 9. The Bruins defeated Middle Tennessee 85-62 in their home opener on Monday.
Junior Matthew Dotson scored a season-high 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field on Monday.
The Bruins have lost three straight games to ranked opponents since beating then-No. 23 Missouri 71-67 on Dec. 30, 2003.
This will be the first meeting between Xavier and Belmont.
“If you ask me, Xavier might just be the best team we’ll face all year,” Bruins coach Rick Byrd said. “They bring back an experienced group and we’ll have to bring out best.”