DAYTON, Ohio (AP)—Drew Lavender was back to working full time Sunday, and No. 10 Xavier needed every minute he could muster.
Lavender made four free throws in the final 35 seconds and Xavier beat Dayton 57-51.
After being limited to just 14 minutes in Xavier’s win over Duquesne on Thursday because of a sprained left ankle, Lavender returned at point guard and played 33 minutes Sunday.
It was the Musketeers’ 10th straight win and assured them of at least a share of the Atlantic 10 championship.
“I gave Drew full credit for playing while being hurt,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “Drew could have said ‘I’m taking a couple of games off’, but he didn’t. He really stepped up and set the tone for us.”
Josh Duncan scored 14 points, and Lavender finished with nine for Xavier (24-4, 12-1 Atlantic 10).
“What makes our team special is that we have great balance and a bunch of players who can score,” Miller said.
Brian Roberts led Dayton (17-9, 5-8) with 15 points.
Nobody else reached double figures, although Xavier went into the game with six players averaging 10 or more.
“They are a solid defensive team and they made it tough to get some shots,” Roberts said. “We fought, we played hard and it was a battle throughout the whole game. They just came out on top.”
Dayton tied the score five times in the first nine minutes but never led. The Flyers were 12-of-24 from the field in the first half and trailed 29-27 at halftime.
Dayton stayed close until a free throw by Duncan, a basket by Dante Jackson and a pair of free throws by Jason Love gave Xavier its biggest lead of the game, 41-31 with 12:44 to play.
“We did a lot of things today that we would have liked, it just was not enough,” Dayton coach Brian Gregory said. “We were playing a high-quality team who has won every close game they’ve played in and you have to make certain plays down the stretch in the last five minutes.
“We wanted to be within striking distance within the last five minutes and we were. They made a couple of big plays and had a couple of offensive rebounds. When you play a team like Xavier, the margin for error is much smaller.”
The Flyers put together a 6-0 run as Roberts and Charles Little each sank a pair of free throws, and Kurt Huelsman muscled a basket underneath to make it 45-42 with 7:09 to play.
That’s when Duncan, who played only 21 minutes, returned despite four fouls. He and Lavender led a stingy Xavier defense that limited Dayton to 28 percent shooting from the field in the second half.
“We knew there was a lot of time on the clock and we had to get a stop and be aggressive on offense,” Roberts said. “We made our little run, but it wasn’t enough in the end.”
Roberts, 3-of-6 from 3-point range, has made at least one from beyond the arc in 50 consecutive games.
The win gave Xavier its longest streak since setting a school record with 16 straight during the 2002-2003 season.
Dayton leads the series 80-65, but Xavier has won the past five, including a 69-43 win last month in Cincinnati. That was the start of Dayton’s problems, as Roberts sat out most of the second half then because of a respiratory infection. He finished with five points.