Xavier’s defense appeared back on track in its last game after poor performances in consecutive losses. Now, coach Sean Miller has turned his attention to shaking up the team’s offense.
After making a change to their starting lineup, the No. 16 Musketeers will try to avoid dropping three straight on the road for the first time in four years when they visit Charlotte on Thursday night.
Xavier (21-4, 9-2 Atlantic 10) had struggled defensively in back-to-back road losses to Duquesne and Dayton, giving up an average of 71.5 points while allowing the opponents to shoot 51.5 percent - both well above the Musketeers’ season averages of 63.4 points and 38.5 percent shooting allowed. They responded on Saturday, though, routing Fordham 88-53 at home.
It was the fewest points allowed by Xavier - which is tied with Dayton atop the conference standings - in five games. The Musketeers also held the Rams to 32.8 percent shooting from the field.
“I thought we got some confidence back in a number of areas,” Miller said. “And we did a good job defending.”
Defense wasn’t the only area of improvement. The Musketeers finished with a season high in points, had six players score in double figures and connected on a season-high 14 3-pointers, led by freshman Brad Redford, who went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc to account for all of his career high-tying 15 points.
Miller credited the strong offensive performance to sophomore guard Dante Jackson, who finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists in his return to the starting lineup. Jackson started Xavier’s first 11 games before being benched in favor of freshman Terrell Holloway, the only true point guard on the roster.
Xavier’s official Web site lists Jackson as Thursday night’s starter over Holloway.
“Dante has been a big reason why our team is 21-4,” Miller said. “I like what he did today. He’s the better defender. He’s more experienced. He responded and I think he’s going to be a big part of our success.”
While Jackson had problems with turnovers earlier in the season, committing 28 in the first 11 games, Holloway had struggled to lead the offense in the two road losses. He failed to record an assist in either game.
“If you look, all the great teams have solid backcourt play,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to be there. It’s a work in progress. We’re on the right track.”
Jackson and the Musketeers can take sole possession of the Atlantic 10 lead Thursday if they maintain their perfect record against the 49ers. They’ve won all six previous meetings in the series, including a 69-47 home win Jan. 28.
Xavier hasn’t dropped three consecutive road games in the same season since a slump from Dec. 11, 2004-Jan. 16, 2005.
Charlotte (9-15, 3-7), meanwhile, has split its last six games and is coming off a 69-51 victory over George Washington on Saturday.
Lamont Mack matched a season high with 23 points, while DiJuan Harris had a career-best 15 assists to lead the 49ers to their fourth win in their last five home contests.
While the 49ers own the second-worst overall shooting percentage in the conference (41.0 percent), they are shooting 47.5 percent from the floor in their last four home games.