Things weren’t looking good for Xavier following back-to-back December losses. Three straight wins, though, have helped restore the team’s confidence.
Facing a squad on Sunday that hasn’t defeated a ranked team in nearly 31 years makes things look even better for the two-time defending Atlantic 10 regular-season champions.
No. 16 Xavier (12-2, 1-0) goes for its fourth straight win overall and fifth in a row over Fordham on Sunday afternoon at Rose Hill Gym. The Musketeers opened conference play on Thursday at the Cintas Center with a 70-44 victory over Saint Louis.
Junior Derrick Brown hit 6-of-6 from the floor and scored a game-high 20 points as the Musketeers won their fourth straight conference opener. Brown, who went 3-of-3 from 3-point range against the Billikens, is shooting 20-of-40 from long range this season. In his first two seasons, he shot a combined 15-of-40 from beyond the arc.
“That’s just Derrick Brown,” said junior center Jason Love, who’s averaging 9.7 points and 6.3 boards since Xavier lost to Duke and Butler. “He’s a great player. He comes to work every day. He set the tone for us tonight.”
In the Musketeers’ 68-50 win over Fordham on Jan. 12, 2008, Brown had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Senior C.J. Anderson, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 boards in two games against Fordham while with Manhattan from 2004-06, hit 6-of-8 from the field and scored 13 points against Saint Louis.
Xavier, which shot 51.9 percent from the field on Thursday, is hitting 49.1 percent during its winning streak. Fordham, meanwhile, has limited its last seven opponents to a combined 43.8 percent from the floor.
The Musketeers could find themselves with a major advantage on the boards against the Rams. Xavier is averaging 39.9 rebounds this season while Fordham is grabbing a conference-worst 30.8 boards per game. Although the Rams have been outrebounded by an average of 12.8 during their four-game slide, senior forward Chris Bethel is sixth in the A-10 with 7.1 rebounds per game.
Fordham (2-11, 0-1) is coming off a 78-65 loss to St. Bonaventure on Wednesday in its worst shooting performance at home this season - 30.8 percent. The Rams rank 323rd in the nation, hitting just 38.0 percent from the field. Xavier, meanwhile, has held opponents to 37.0 percent shooting this season - 12th in the nation.
“It’s hard to win when you shoot 7-for-33 in the first half like we did,” Fordham coach Dereck Whittenburg told the school’s official Web site. “We made a comeback attempt there in the second half which is encouraging.”
Fordham’s 6-87 all-time record against ranked opponents, however, is anything but encouraging. The Rams’ last victory over a Top 25 team was a 63-59 win over No. 18 Georgetown on Feb. 26, 1978. They’ve lost 45 in a row versus ranked opponents since then.
If Fordham doesn’t want the skid to reach 46 on Sunday, freshman Jio Fontan will likely have to post big numbers. Already named A-10 Rookie of the Week twice, the 5-foot-11 guard is averaging a team-best 14.1 points and 4.5 assists.
Fontan matched a season high with 22 points against the Bonnies.
Fordham is 3-16 all-time against Xavier. The Rams’ last victory over the Musketeers was 76-74 at home on Jan. 16, 2005 that snapped Xavier’s 11-game series winning streak.