Off to its best start since 1996-97, Xavier is looking at its unblemished record with anything but admiration.
The 10th-ranked Musketeers look to improve more than just their 7-0 mark on Wednesday night at the Cintas Center as they meet an Ohio team going for its first win at Xavier in 62 seasons.
“Right now, we’re not playing up to our potential,” Xavier senior B.J. Raymond said. “We have a great upside. I think once we get to our upside, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”
Raymond was just that in the Musketeers’ last game on Dec. 3, hitting a career-best seven 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 32 points as Xavier held off Auburn 81-74.
“We won because B.J. had the best game of his career, and arguably one of the best games I’ve ever seen a Xavier player have in the seasons I’ve been here,” said fifth-year coach Sean Miller after improving to 100-39 at Xavier.
The Musketeers led Auburn 56-34 with 11:37 remaining, but were outscored 17-4 over the next 4:42.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” said Raymond, the Atlantic 10 player of the week. “We’re probably the worst 7-0 team in the country right now. We didn’t have good body language out there. We weren’t there tonight. We’ve got to start our season over. Right now, we’re not playing up to our potential.”
If reaching a regional final in the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons is in their plans, the Musketeers will have to improve their ball handling and free throw shooting.
Xavier matched a season high with 22 turnovers against the Tigers, including eight from sophomore guard Dante Jackson.
“I didn’t handle it very well,” said Jackson, who is averaging 7.5 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 turnovers in two games since freshman point guard Terrell Holloway was sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot. “I think we all handled it exceptionally well except me. Eight turnovers is not acceptable for my position, not acceptable for my team. Hopefully it’s something I move past and get better.”
Xavier, which missed 14 of 36 free throws against Auburn, is shooting just 62.2 percent from the foul line in its last three games.
Ohio (4-3), meanwhile, is hitting 75.5 percent of its free throws this season, including 81.1 percent (30-of-37) in the final five minutes of games.
The Bobcats avoided a third straight loss Monday with a 62-50 win over Indiana State in the Marques Mabin Classic.
Senior forward Jerome Tillman posted his fourth double-double of the season with 18 points and 16 rebounds, and moved into 20th place on the Bobcats’ scoring list with 1,214 points.
Ohio is shooting just 42.3 percent from the field, and could be facing a long night against Xavier, which is among the nation’s best, holding opponents to 35.9 percent shooting.
Ohio is not only looking for its first victory against the Musketeers on the road since the 1946-47 season, but also its first win over a top 10 team since beating then-No. 4 Ohio State 79-68 on Dec. 11, 1971.
In the teams’ last meeting on Dec. 9, 1995, Ohio defeated Xavier 103-72. The Bobcats lead the all-time series 20-13.
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