Xavier had to dodge an upset bid in its last game to remain unbeaten in Atlantic 10 play, but such threats have been almost nonexistent from conference foes at the Cintas Center in recent seasons.
A win Sunday against La Salle would be the 18th straight in the Atlantic 10 at home for the 15th-ranked Musketeers, who’ve used consistently staunch defense to win their last five games overall.
The Musketeers (14-2, 3-0) cruised to their first two league wins, beating Saint Louis and Fordham by 26 points each while shooting a combined 52.8 percent from the field in those games.
Their offense stumbled at Rhode Island on Thursday, but they held on for a 67-65 win despite shooting just 38.9 percent. The Rams were even worse from the field, becoming the sixth straight Xavier opponent to make less than 40 percent of its shots.
“We are a really good defensive team, that’s why we were able to win this game,” Musketeers coach Sean Miller said. “… We were fortunate to win the game. URI took us out of our rhythm.”
Xavier has consistently derailed its foes’ offenses, with opponents shooting 35.7 percent and averaging 59.2 points during the Musketeers’ five-game winning streak. The club ranks fifth nationally this season in field goal percentage defense (36.7 percent).
But a complete game has overwhelmed Atlantic 10 visitors to Xavier’s campus since the beginning of the 2006-07 season.
The Musketeers have gone 8-0 at home in conference play in each of the last two seasons, and their 70-44 win over Saint Louis on Jan. 8 extended their winning streak in league games at the Cintas Center to 17. They’re outscoring opponents by an average of 17.9 points during the run.
The streak includes a 75-62 win over La Salle last Feb. 2, as Xavier—also ranked 15th at the time—displayed a typically balanced offense, with six players scoring in double figures.
The Musketeers have employed a similar philosophy this season, with nine players averaging at least 5.0 points but none more than Derrick Brown’s 14.0.
Led by junior Ruben Guillandeaux’s 14, five La Salle players scored in double figures in the Explorers’ 68-61 win at Charlotte on Wednesday. Guillandeaux has averaged 16.3 points in his last four games, shooting 9-of-16 (56.3 percent) from 3-point range in those games.
Classmate Rodney Green, the Explorers’ leading scorer, had 11 points against Charlotte—his 10th straight game in double figures.
La Salle (9-6, 1-1) also outrebounded the 49ers 50-25, winning for the fourth time in its last five games overall, but coach John Giannini’s team faces a tougher challenge on the glass against Xavier. The Musketeers lead the Atlantic 10 and rank in the top 25 nationally with 40.7 rebounds per game.
The Explorers have dropped 12 straight games against ranked opponents dating to the 2000-01 season, getting outscored by an average of 18.7 points. They’ve also lost 13 of their last 15 versus Xavier.