Xavier struggled offensively it’s last time out, but a strong defensive effort kept its winning streak intact.
The 20th-ranked Musketeers (14-3, 2-0 Atlantic 10) look to win their seventh straight game Wednesday when they visit Temple.
Xavier has been on an impressive run since losing 82-75 to then-No. 12 Tennessee on Dec. 22. Since that loss, the Musketeers have won six straight by an average of 25.3 points.
Xavier has averaged 84.5 points during that stretch thanks to a balanced offense. Six players are averaging in double figures for the Musketeers, led by reserve B.J. Raymond at 12.7.
Raymond scored 20 points in Xavier’s 68-50 win over Fordham on Saturday. He’s averaging 19.7 points over the last three games.
Although the Musketeers have dominated their opponents recently, their offense had an off game against the Rams. They shot just 41.7 percent from the field after having shot 50 percent or better the previous four games, and they allowed Fordham to hang around through most of the first half.
Coach Sean Miller was willing to overlook that, however, given the strong defensive effort. The Musketeers’ opponents are averaging 61.9 points—second fewest in the Atlantic 10—and that was particularly important on Saturday.
“We won because we were very consistent with our effort on defense,” Miller said. “I don’t think we played a great game today, but what we’re looking for is consistent effort.”
Xavier entered Saturday shooting 54.9 percent in its previous five games and averaging 46.2 points in the first half during that stretch. The Musketeers only held a 32-26 halftime lead despite holding Fordham scoreless for over seven minutes before the break.
“It’s that wearing-down effect that good defensive teams have,” Miller said. “If you just stay with it, you can eventually break down an opponent.”
The Musketeers look to slow down a Temple (6-8, 0-1) team that has lost three straight, including a 60-58 loss to Charlotte on Saturday. Mark Tyndale scored 17 points and Dionte Christmas added 13.
The Owls trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half and rallied to take a late two-point lead before falling short.
“There were a lot of really good things and I hope we have some confidence to carry on, and I think we will,” coach Fran Dunphy told the Owls’ official Web site.
Christmas ranks second in the conference in scoring at 20.5 points per game. The junior guard, however, is averaging 18.3 points on lowly 29.5 percent shooting in three games against ranked teams this season—all losses for the Owls.
Christmas and Tyndale combined for just 18 points on 6-of-22 shooting in last season’s 76-68 loss at Xavier on Jan. 6, 2007.
Temple leads the all-time series against Xavier, 9-8. The Musketeers have lost three of the last four meetings on the road.