CINCINNATI (AP)—Josh Duncan’s first shot was a dead-center 3-pointer. For his next shot, the junior center darted inside to get a three-point play.
At that point, Duncan and No. 24 Xavier had an inkling they could have their way.
Duncan scored 25 points Tuesday night and led a 3-point flurry that swept No. 24 Xavier to an 88-55 victory over Detroit, providing the Musketeers with an emphatic return to the Top 25.
“We came out with the mind-set that we just wanted to shoot with confidence,” said Duncan, who was 9-of-11 from the field. “We made that one more pass to find the open man, then shot it with confidence.”
At 7-1, Xavier is off to its best start in 10 years and back in the Top 25 for the first time in more than three years. The Musketeers came of age during the Atlantic 10 tournament last season, winning four games in four days. The core of that team is back, meshing nicely with a deep bench.
The Musketeers had 24 assists on their 32 baskets Tuesday, showing patience even when their reserves were on the floor.
“That’s part of the game we’ve needed to work on,” said reserve B.J. Raymond, who hit both of his 3-point shots and had seven points. “We needed to move the ball and spread out to get open shots.”
In the past two games, Xavier has piled up 50 assists while beating Detroit and Western Carolina.
“We have an unselfish team right now,” coach Sean Miller said. “That’s a great quality to have, no matter who you’re playing or what time of year it is.”
Detroit (2-6) was helpless as Xavier powered through the Titans’ man-to-man coverage and shot accurately over their zone defenses. The Musketeers took control by making seven of their first 11 shots from behind the arc.
Duncan led the way, scoring 17 points in the first half. He was 4-of-5 from behind the arc in the half, matching his career high for 3-pointers made. The Musketeers went 11-of-23 overall on 3-pointers.
“I just let the game come to me,” said Duncan, who played only 23 minutes. “I’ve got to give it to my teammates for passing to me when I was open.”
Brandon Cotton scored 19 points for Detroit, which went 7 minutes without scoring during the first half.
There was a lot of nostalgia for the Musketeers, who hadn’t played as a nationally ranked team since the end of the 2002-03 season, David West’s last one at Xavier. The seniors were relieved Monday when they moved into the Top 25 for the first time during their careers.
Miller told his team two things about playing with a ranking: They deserve it, and they need to make sure it’s not a distraction.
“You look at the Indianapolis Colts,” Miller said. “They’ve been undefeated (for long stretches) in the last two years, but on Sundays they’ve stepped up and stayed focused. We have to be that team.”
Detroit added to the throwback feeling. The Titans and Musketeers played regularly in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, but hadn’t met since 1994-95 — the last season before Xavier moved to the Atlantic 10.
For the rematch, the Musketeers wore old-style jerseys recalling their 16 seasons in the Midwestern Collegiate, where they won eight regular-season titles. The white uniforms had block letters and light-blue trim, with one noticeable concession to current style—the shorts hung below the knees, much longer than the originals.
Xavier opened the game with a 27-9 spurt, making eight of its first 11 shots and holding Detroit scoreless for 7 minutes. The Musketeers went 9-of-15 from behind the arc in the first half, when they led by as many as 24. Point guard Drew Lavender had a season-high seven assists in the half.
The lead reached 33 midway through the second half, when Xavier turned to its backups to finish it off.