Currently leading the Atlantic 10, Xavier knows the only way it can move is down.
The Musketeers look for their 11th straight victory overall and 21st consecutive conference win at the Cintas Center on Thursday night against a Temple team that has defeated them in three of the last four meetings.
No. 9 Xavier (19-2) is wrapping up a three-game homestand following Saturday’s 82-80 win over Massachusetts. Junior forward Derrick Brown hit his first eight shots and tied a career high with 23 points as the Musketeers improved to 7-0 in conference for the first time since winning their first nine in 2001-02.
It wasn’t easy, though, as it took a rebound from C.J. Anderson in the final seconds to seal the win.
“Every game is going to be tough,” said B.J. Raymond. “We’re going to take everybody’s best shot.”
Raymond has been doing his part to keep alive the Musketeers’ longest winning streak since an 11-game run following last season’s 78-59 loss at Temple on Jan. 16.
Raymond scored 20 or more points for the third straight game on Saturday with 22 on 8-of-12 shooting. Raymond, shooting 63.2 percent (12-of-19) from 3-point range during this stretch, was named A-10 Player of the Week for the second time this season on Tuesday.
The senior guard, however, missed all seven shots—including six from long distance—as the Owls defeated the then-No. 20 Musketeers last season.
In addition to his game-ending rebound against UMass, Anderson had 19 points and six boards to complement Brown and Raymond’s solid efforts.
“All three guys on the same night had one of the best performances of their careers,” said Xavier coach Sean Miller, whose team is on the verge of its fourth consecutive 20-win season. “They did it when it came to crunch time. We needed something superlative from them in order for us to win.”
With a season-high 23 turnovers against UMass, the Musketeers needed that effort. Sophomore Dante Jackson stepped in at point guard for the injured Terrell Holloway in the second half on Saturday and committed five turnovers. Holloway was limited to just one assist in 17 minutes after Luke Bonner fell on his left foot midway through the first half. Holloway did not fracture his foot, but no decision has been made whether the freshman, who has started every game during the winning streak and averaging 6.5 points and 2.4 assists overall, will play against Temple.
“We’ll take it day by day, and we’re optimistic he can return on Thursday,” Miller said. “But we’re more optimistic this isn’t going to be a long-term thing at all.”
Temple (12-8, 4-2) arrives in Cincinnati following a 74-65 victory over Richmond on Saturday. The Owls won their seventh in nine games as five players scored in double figures for just the second time in 2008-09. Semaj Inge had 19 points and Dionte Christmas posted a double-double with 17 and a career-high 13 boards as Temple had a season-high 58 second-half points following a season-worst 16 in the opening 20 minutes.
“It was really a hard-fought game,” Owls coach Fran Dunphy told the school’s official Web site. “I knew we’d have some problems scoring, but I didn’t think it would be that difficult in the first half.”
It could be another challenge against a Xavier team that is eighth in the nation in field goal defense at 37.4 percent.
The Musketeers have won four of their last five at home in this series.