CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP)—A big lead that almost proved not big enough last season against Saint Louis left an impression on Xavier’s B.J. Raymond, and Virginia paid for it.
Raymond scored 24 points and hit four of No. 22 Xavier’s nine 3-pointers Saturday, and the Musketeers took a big early lead and never let up in an 84-70 victory over the Cavaliers.
“We know that when we’ve got our foot on somebody’s throat, we’ve got to keep it there,” Raymond said, recalling last season’s close call. “We can’t think that the game is over.”
Because of that mentality, this one was over early for all practical purposes.
The Musketeers (11-2) missed their first nine shots, but trailed only 6-2 when Raymond finally broke the ice with a basket in the lane with 15:14 left. It sparked a 23-2 run, with the last 19 coming in succession, as Xavier cruised to a 23-8 lead midway through the half.
“Our mentality changed,” said Raymond, who finished 9-of-14 from the field. “We started playing defense to offense. … That’s where we’re at our best.”
Virginia (6-5) never challenged again, failing to avenge a loss last season that rated as one of its low points. In Ohio, the Musketeers led 61-30 by halftime, extended their lead to as many as 43 thereafter and tied a school record with 16 3-pointers in a 108-70 victory.
This time, the Musketeers had a 42-26 advantage at the break, even after Virginia closed with a 9-4 run. Xavier then opened the second half on an 18-6 run to lead 60-32, showing coach Sean Miller how much they’ve learned by letting up in the past when leading handily.
“You worry when you have a big halftime lead,” Miller said, adding that often the first six to eight minutes of the second half can change a game. “The team is cornered, the coach is angry, you know they’re on their home court and they have a lot of pride.”
Raymond finished the second run with a jumper right after teammate Derrick Brown scored on a soaring one-handed dunk that caused even the fans at John Paul Jones Arena to roar.
Sylven Landesberg led Virginia with 25 points and Mike Scott had 16, but the Cavaliers shot just 37.5 percent in their first outing since winning 88-84 at Georgia Tech on Dec. 28.
“They started stepping their defense up a little and we backed down,” Landesberg said.
They also failed to play the defense coach Dave Leitao said they worked on for three days leading up to the game, and gave up 14 offensive rebounds leading to numerous putbacks.
“We’re going to have day where we surprise ourselves and perform at a high level,” Leitao said of his young team, “and there are going to be days like today with a young group for whatever reason that you don’t play at a level you’re capable of.”
Kenny Frease added 13 points and eight rebounds for Xavier, which will open its Atlantic 10 schedule Thursday night against Saint Louis. Dante Jackson also had 13 for the Musketeers.
“Sometimes everything’s just going good for you. That’s how I felt today,” Frease said.
The lone highlight of the day for Virginia came with 2:55 left, when senior Mamadi Diane, who was expected to be an offensive leader but has struggled mightily, made a 3-pointer from the top of the key. It was his first 3-pointer in 22 attempts this season and drew cheers.