Xavier hasn’t been tested often in Atlantic 10 play, and that isn’t likely to change against a Massachusetts team that has played poorly on the road.
The 10th-ranked Musketeers look for a 20th straight home conference win on Saturday afternoon when they meet the Minutemen.
Xavier (18-2, 6-0), which opened the season 9-0 before back-to-back losses to Duke and Butler, will try for its first 10-game winning streak since an 11-game run from Jan. 19-March 1, 2008. Wednesday’s 69-47 victory over Charlotte marked another blowout in the opener of a three-game stretch at the Cintas Center.
It was the Musketeers’ fifth win in Atlantic 10 play by at least 20 points. The only close game they have had against a league foe was a 67-65 win at Rhode Island on Jan. 15.
Senior swingman B.J. Raymond posted his second career double-double on Wednesday with 23 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. He was 6-of-8 from 3-point range while his teammates shot a combined 1-of-12 from beyond the arc.
“B.J.’s performance was the storyline of the game,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “He did it all. He clearly was the best player in the game. The margin (of victory) was a function of what he accomplished.”
Raymond has emerged as a starter after primarily playing as a reserve the previous three seasons. He hasn’t produced much in his career against the Minutemen, managing 13 points and 10 rebounds over 77 minutes in four games.
The Musketeers have won three straight and six of their last eight meetings with the Minutemen (7-11, 2-3), who don’t seem poised to break through Saturday. UMass is 1-7 on the road despite an experienced lineup that features three seniors.
Xavier has only two players in their final year of eligibility, but has been bolstered by three freshmen - starting guard Terrell Holloway and reserves Brad Redford and Kenny Frease.
Frease continued his strong play on Wednesday by shooting 7-of-9 from the floor and scoring a season-high 17 points. The 7-footer was named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week, and is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 76.5 percent in his last two games.
“In practice especially, I’m starting to feel more comfortable in the post,” he said. “Going against (junior Jason) Love every day is real good for me. He’s a good defender. When I get the ball down there in the post, I feel more comfortable and more confident in my moves.”
Xavier continued its stellar defensive play on Wednesday by holding the 49ers to four baskets and 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. The Musketeers, who limited Charlotte to 30.9 percent shooting, are sixth in the nation in field goal defense at 37.1 percent. UMass is shooting 35.0 percent from the field in dropping consecutive games.
Xavier, which leads the A-10 with 40.5 rebounds per game, held a 48-28 edge on the boards against Charlotte as junior Derrick Brown grabbed a season-high 11. The Musketeers have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 10.9 during their nine-game winning streak.
UMass is ninth in the conference, averaging just 34.9 boards, but senior Tony Gaffney is ninth in Division I with 10.8 per game. In last Saturday’s 62-54 loss to La Salle, Gaffney posted his seventh double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Gaffney, though, had just five boards as the Minutemen were outrebounded 41-30 in last season’s 77-65 loss to Xavier.
UMass senior guard Chris Lowe needs 17 points on Saturday to reach 1,000 for his career. He is also five assists away from passing Edgar Padilla (597) for second all-time in the program’s history.