Xavier overcame a slow start in its last game. Another sluggish beginning on Saturday night in Baton Rouge would likely produce a different result.
Playing their final non-conference game of the season, the 15th-ranked Musketeers go for their eighth straight victory on Saturday as they face an LSU team that has won 17 in a row at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Xavier (16-2) is coming off an 84-64 win at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, finishing with a season-high 54.2 field-goal percentage despite missing 10 of its first 14 shots.
“We didn’t panic, we just tried to stay with our system and just keep playing defense,” said senior swingman C.J. Anderson, who had a team-high 15 points and shot 5-for-10 from the field.
Freshman Brad Redford hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 points off the bench. The 6-foot guard is averaging 10.1 points and shooting 52.6 percent (20 of 38) from 3-point range during Xavier’s seven-game winning streak.
“We have a young freshman who’s a fantastic shooter,” Musketeers coach Sean Miller said. “And as he’s emerged, he’s really continued to develop our offense. “I thought the shots he made in the first half, coupled with our defense, allowed us to go in at halftime with the cushion that we did.”
Stifling defense has been a staple this season for the two-time defending Atlantic 10 regular season champs, who are limiting opponents to 37.0 percent shooting from the field. The Musketeers held the Bonnies to 30.8 percent shooting while building a 41-22 halftime advantage.
While Xavier looks to take one step closer to matching its school-best 24-2 start to the 1989-90 season, LSU is trying to match its second-longest winning streak in the history of the Assembly Center, where the Tigers are 231-31 all-time.
Although LSU (15-3) has won its 14 home games this season by an average of 20.3 points, the Tigers realize that Saturday presents a substantial challenge.
“Mentally, (the Musketeers) are a very tough team and what you would expect from a team that has a lot of postseason experience and tradition,” LSU coach Trent Johnson told the school’s official Web site. “We are going to have to be very good. This is a team that is coming in here where we have to beat them, they will not beat themselves.”
Another big game from senior Marcus Thornton would definitely help the Tigers in their quest for their fourth win in a row overall. In Wednesday’s 81-57 victory over Mississippi State, Thornton hit 10 of 18 field-goal attempts - including 5 of 8 from 3-point range - and scored 31 points.
Thornton had averaged just 11.0 points in his previous two games.
Junior forward Tasmin Mitchell added 24 points and shot 9-for-13 against the Bulldogs. He’s averaging 23.7 points and 7.0 rebounds during LSU’s three-game winning streak.
These teams have split their two previous meetings, including a 78-62 home win for LSU in the most recent matchup on Dec. 22, 1980.