CINCINNATI (AP)—After playing so well for so long, No. 24 Xavier was due for one of those nights when nothing comes easy. Two shooters got the Musketeers through it.
The worst part was the angry coach waiting for them in the locker room afterward.
B.J. Raymond and C.J. Anderson each scored a career-high 21 points, and Xavier overcame a sluggish performance to get its fifth straight win, 83-68 over St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night.
Xavier (13-3, 1-0 Atlantic 10) has coasted lately with its exquisite balance. Seven players reached double figures in consecutive games during the winning streak, followed by five in the next.
This time, they needed a 1-2 combination to pull them through. Raymond led the way, going 5-of-10 from behind the 3-point arc in a performance that was ultimately unsatisfying.
“We can’t have any mental letdowns,” Raymond said. “We can’t be a team of the past. Teams of the past here had mental letdowns. We’re trying to be a team that’s a different breed here, that has a different standard. That’s why this one leaves a bad taste in our mouths.”
Coach Sean Miller lambasted his players afterward and threatened lineup changes if they didn’t quickly regain their focus. He thought they went soft after getting publicly praised for the way they’ve been dominating teams.
“I’m completely disgusted and disappointed with our team,” Miller said. “That’s the problem: I’m going to strip the hype. The reality is we’re really average when we don’t play as hard as we can and as unselfish as we can.”
It was a homecoming for first-year Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt, who hadn’t been back to Xavier since he was one of Skip Prosser’s assistants from 1994-2001.
Schmidt is trying to rescue St. Bonaventure (6-9, 0-1) from the aftermath of a player eligibility scandal that led to coach Jan van Breda Kolff’s firing in April 2003. In the next four seasons under coach Anthony Solomon, the Bonnies didn’t win more than eight games.
So far, things are looking up. The Bonnies opened Atlantic 10 play only one victory shy of their total for last season, when they finished 7-22.
“Our team had a great effort,” Schmidt said. “I told them in the locker room that if we can continue to give that effort, we’ll surprise some people.”
St. Bonaventure’s defense had been good lately, holding the previous five opponents to 65 or fewer points. The offense was the problem, ranking near the bottom of the league in most categories.
With Zarryon Fereti scoring 22 points and Michael Lee adding 21, the Bonnies managed to keep it close until midway through the second half. Raymond made a 3-pointer and scored off a pass during a 14-3 run that built the lead to 23 points.
The Bonnies’ 68 points were the most they had scored in the last six games.
“They were executing (plays) and we weren’t doing what we’ve been doing for the last few games,” Anderson said. “It shouldn’t be difficult at all. There’s no excuse not to be intense on defense.”
Anderson had his first double-double, getting a career-high 10 rebounds along with his 21 points. It was the first time Xavier had two 20-point scorers in a game this season.
Xavier had won its last four games by an average of 30 points, drubbing Kansas State, Virginia and Auburn along the way. The Musketeers were due for a game when they were a little off.
After pulling ahead 9-0, they lost their edge.
The Musketeers went through a 4-for-12 shooting slump with four turnovers, preventing them from putting the Bonnies away at the outset. Lee kept St. Bonaventure close by scoring 13 points in the first half.
Raymond, who had 18 points at Auburn on Sunday, made two 3s during a 20-11 spurt that closed the half and made it 44-30, Xavier’s smallest halftime lead during the winning streak.
Xavier point guard Drew Lavender picked up his second foul with 8:42 left in the opening half and went to the bench, contributing to the early struggles. He finished with nine points.
Fereti hit two 3s that cut the lead to 53-46 early in the second half, but Raymond blunted the comeback with a 3-pointer. He and Lavender made consecutive 3s that rebuilt the lead to 63-48. St. Bonaventure wouldn’t get close again.