When it’s contesting shots and limiting opponents’ opportunities, Xavier is one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Lately, though, the two-time defending Atlantic-10 regular-season champion Musketeers haven’t showcased that defensive mentality.
The 14th-ranked Musketeers look to avoid their first three-game skid in over four years Saturday afternoon as they meet Fordham, which has never won at Xavier and is one of the worst shooting teams in the nation.
Xavier (20-4, 8-2), which last dropped three straight from Nov. 30-Dec. 18, 2004, is back at the Cintas Center—where it has won 21 straight in conference play—following an 0-2, five-day trip.
After Duquesne shot 53.3 percent from the field in a 72-68 win over Xavier last Saturday, the Musketeers fell 71-58 to Dayton on Wednesday as the Flyers hit 26-of-52 shots (50.0).
“I think (the Flyers) played an all-around good game,” said senior C.J. Anderson, who averages 10.5 points but scored 5.5 on the trip. “They made tough shots.”
Xavier had not allowed opponents to shoot 50.0 percent or better in back-to-back games since Feb. 28-March 3, 2007.
“That’s the name of the game for us,” said coach Sean Miller, whose Musketeers are 16-0 this season when holding opponents to fewer than 71 points. “We’ve got to get back to what makes us good. We’ve got to get back to tough-minded defense. It’s critical that we re-establish that.”
During its 11-game winning streak that ended last Saturday, Xavier held its opponents to 62.2 points and 38.3 percent shooting.
The Musketeers, tied with Dayton atop the A-10, are in the top 20 nationally in field goal defense (38.7). That’s bad news for a Fordham squad that made just 20-of-60 from the floor in its 86-60 loss to then-No. 16 Xavier on Jan. 11.
The Rams (3-18, 1-8) are 328th in Division I, shooting 38.5 percent from the field.
They dropped their third straight and 11th in 12 games on Wednesday, 91-68 to Massachusetts. Fordham was paced by sophomore guard Mike Moore, who had a career-high 21 points with nine rebounds, and junior guard Herb Tanner’s career-best 10 points.
Moore’s averaging 16.7 points and 6.3 boards during the three-game skid.
The Minutemen shot 51.5 percent against Fordham, last in the A-10 in field goal defense (48.4).
“Give UMass credit, they shot the ball lights out tonight,” coach Dereck Whittenburg told Fordham’s official Web site. “But I was encouraged with the play of Mike Moore and Herbie Tanner. They showed some guts and continued to fight until the end. But the bottom line is that we didn’t make shots and with a young team that affects your confidence.”
Xavier is 9-0 at home all-time against Fordham and has won five in a row in the series since a 76-74 road loss on Jan. 16, 2005. The Musketeers are 17-3 versus the Rams.