Earning a share of its third straight Atlantic 10 regular-season title was a great accomplishment, but Xavier wants the championship to itself.
The 17th-ranked Musketeers get that chance Saturday night when they close out their regular season against a Richmond team that’s won four of five.
Xavier (24-5, 12-3) clinched a share of its third consecutive A-10 title, defeating Dayton 76-59 on Thursday for its 24th straight conference win at the Cintas Center. Now, the Musketeers look for back-to-back wins on the road after dropping three straight from Feb. 7-19.
Xavier also clinched the top seed in next week’s A-10 tournament in Atlantic City, N.J.
“It’s our driving force,” coach Sean Miller said of winning the conference title. “I don’t know about other programs, but it’s all we talk about. Especially winning three in a row - it’s very meaningful for our program and our seniors.”
If Rhode Island defeats visiting Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon and Xavier falls to the Spiders (16-14, 8-7) that night, the Musketeers still win the conference due to their 67-65 win over the Rams on Jan. 15. Xavier, though, wants to finish its regular season with its fourth straight victory overall and seventh in a row against Richmond.
“That would mean a lot,” senior guard B.J. Raymond said. “As seniors, that would leave us with a big legacy.”
Raymond scored 14 on Thursday to become the 47th member of Xavier’s 1,000-point club, but missed nine of his first 10 shots on senior night.
“I just shot my way out of it,” he said. “I missed a couple and got upset. Usually I make those shots. I’m just thankful the fans stuck with me.”
Raymond hit five 3-pointers and scored a then-career-best 22 off the bench in the Musketeers’ last game against Richmond, an 86-61 win March 8, 2008.
Dante Jackson scored the team’s first 11 against the Flyers and finished with 14, while fellow sophomore Jamel McLean added 10.
“This was a game for the young guys,” Raymond said. “It gets them ready for the big games. It shows the growth they’ve had.”
Xavier is 5-0 at Richmond but needs to find a way to slow down the Spiders’ talented backcourt of David Gonzalvez and Kevin Anderson. Gonzalvez is seventh in the A-10 with 15.9 points per game, while Anderson, a sophomore, is eighth at 15.7.
Anderson hit the winning shot with eight seconds left and scored 24 as Richmond won its third straight on the road, 64-62 over Charlotte on Tuesday.
Anderson went 9-of-15 from the field and scored 20 points in last season’s loss at then-No. 8 Xavier.
The Spiders’ last win over the Musketeers was 53-44 on Jan. 25, 2004.