Since having two of its worst defensive performances of the season in back-to-back losses last month, Xavier has been shutting down its opponents.
The No. 15 Musketeers will try to continue that success Thursday as they look to win their 12th straight over high-scoring Rhode Island when the Atlantic 10 rivals meet at the Ryan Center.
Xavier (13-2, 2-0) has won four straight since losing consecutive games to Duke and Butler in December. In those losses, the Musketeers allowed the Blue Devils and Bulldogs to average 78.0 points and shoot 43.6 percent (17-of-39) from 3-point range.
In the four games since, Xavier has allowed 57.8 points while allowing opponents to shoot 35.3 percent overall—28.8 percent (19-of-66) from beyond the arc.
The Musketeers are coming off an 86-60 win over Fordham on Sunday. They blew a 15-point halftime lead before turning a one-point advantage into a rout, holding the Rams to 33.3 percent shooting and outrebounding them 45-29.
“All in all it was a good road win for our team. If there is such a thing as a hard-fought 26-point victory, this was it,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “We had to win twice. We got the big lead, took a punch and responded again.”
Xavier shot a season-best 53.8 percent from the field and had six players score in double figures, led by 18 points from B.J. Raymond. Derrick Brown scored 14 points and had seven rebounds.
After playing only three true road games thus far, the Musketeers play three of their next four away from home. Miller said the team’s ability to stay focused Sunday despite blowing a big lead is a good sign.
“It does happen on the road and I told them that and it was no time to worry,” Miller said. “We didn’t panic, kept our composure. We weren’t different. We were the same team and our defense started to come around.”
Xavier is looking to start 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2005-06.
Rhode Island (11-5, 0-1) is trying to bounce back after opening its conference schedule with a 92-86 triple overtime loss to St. Joseph’s on Saturday.
Jimmy Baron scored 19 points and Kahiem Seawright had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists to became the 47th Rhode Island player to reach 1,000 points.
Rhode Island is the highest-scoring team in the Atlantic 10 with 81.9 points per game. It’s giving up the second-most points, though, allowing 73.4 a contest.
Xavier has won 11 straight regular-season games against Rhode Island since losing 69-68 in Kingston on Feb. 24, 1998.