Although Xavier has already clinched the Atlantic 10 regular season title, the No. 9 Musketeers aren’t likely to ease up in the final days of the season.
Xavier looks to win its 11th straight game Saturday when it hosts George Washington.
The Musketeers (24-4, 12-1) defeated Dayton 57-51 on Sunday, then captured their second straight regular season conference title Thursday when St. Joseph’s lost to Saint Louis.
In Sunday’s win, senior guard Drew Lavender managed just nine points while playing with a sprained left ankle, but hit four critical free throws in the final 35 seconds.
“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.”
The Musketeers continued their strong defensive play, holding Dayton to just 37.7 percent shooting from the field. Xavier’s opponents are averaging a conference-low 62.2 points in league play, while shooting only 40.3 percent.
Sunday’s win over the Flyers also extended Xavier’s longest winning streak since the Musketeers won a school-record 16 straight in 2002-03.
“It’s was one of our goals (to win a conference championship) and to win it in back-to-back years when you’re favored is not an easy thing,” Miller said. “Our team has taken on a great responsibility to be our best and to keep working to improve.”
After facing the Colonials (9-14, 5-8), Xavier visits St. Joseph’s on Thursday. The Musketeers conclude the regular season at home next Saturday against Richmond.
George Washington has won a season-high three straight, including an 85-68 victory over Rhode Island on Wednesday, when it led by as many as 27 points and never trailed.
Reserve Noel Wilmore scored a career-high 24 points, including seven 3-pointers, and Damian Hollis added 22 points, also a career high.
Despite the modest winning streak, George Washington remains near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 standings, tied with Dayton and Fordham for the second-worst conference record.
“It’s not about the tournament,” Colonials coach Karl Hobbs said. “It’s about getting our guys to play their maximum, and as best as they possibly could. What happens after that I can live with.”
Hobbs, though, was also realistic about his team’s chances against Xavier.
“If they were coming here, (Wednesday’s win) would give me a great life,” he said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. We have to hope three of their shooters are having bad shooting days.”
Xavier holds a 21-9 lead in the series against the Colonials, including a 74-66 win at George Washington on Jan. 19. The Colonials were ranked 10th in the nation when they last beat the Musketeers on the road, 89-85 on Feb. 2, 2006.