OLEAN, N.Y. (AP)—The scar on Brad Redford’s lip was fresh and crooked, but the Xavier freshman’s shot was pure and straight.
Overcoming the still-throbbing pain a day after being elbowed across the mouth in practice, Redford hit his first three 3-point attempts to spark a decisive first-half run in leading the 15th-ranked Musketeers to an easy 84-64 win over St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night.
“Yeah, I got popped pretty good,” the backup guard said of a gash that required 16 stitches to close just before the Musketeers left Cincinnati. “But I just forgot about it once I was in the game.”
Redford finished 4-of-9 for 14 points, while C.J. Anderson scored 15 in helping Xavier (16-2, 5-0 Atlantic 10) improve the second-best start in school history. The Musketeers, who have won seven straight since losing consecutive games to Duke and Butler, are off to their best start since going 24-2 in 1989-90.
Freshman forward Andrew Nicholson scored 13 for St. Bonaventure (11-7, 2-3), which has lost four in a row at home. Maurice Thomas added 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Bonnies, who have lost eight straight to the Musketeers and 13 in a row against ranked opponents.
Though St. Bonaventure is still a program finding its way after six seasons of 19 losses or more, Xavier is on track to register its fourth straight 20-win season, and 12th in 13 years.
And suddenly, the defense-first Musketeers just might have a new offensive dimension in Redford.
“We have a young freshman who’s a fantastic shooter. And as he’s emerged, he’s really continued to develop our offense,” coach Sean Miller said. “I thought the shots he made in the first half, coupled with our defense, allowed us to go in at halftime with the cushion that we did.”
After a sloppy start, the momentum began shifting in Xavier’s direction when Redford hit 3-point baskets on consecutive possessions midway through the first half to break an 11-all tie and put the Musketeers ahead for good. Xavier then put the game away with an 18-2 run over the final 4 minutes to take a 41-22 lead into the break.
Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt attempted to put the loss into perspective, aware that his team still might not be ready to challenge the A-10’s elite.
“We’re not going to play Xavier every night,” Schmidt said. “This was a benchmark game and as I told them, we hung in there for 13-14 minutes. We need to find 26-27 minutes more.”
No need reminding Schmidt about Redford’s presence.
“He just opens it up for the big guys, and they’re talented inside,” Schmidt said. “I was just talking to the assistant and he told me yesterday (Redford) made 46 out of 46 3s. That’s saying something.”
The slow start against the Bonnies—Xavier missed 10 of its first 14 attempts—didn’t bother the team.
“We didn’t panic, we just tried to stay with our system and just keep playing defense,” Anderson said.
The Musketeers took control with just under 4 minutes left in the first half when Anderson blocked Jonathan Hall’s shot from the paint, leading directly to Redford hitting a 3-pointer on the break to give Xavier a 29-20 lead. The rout was on a few minutes later when, during a 26-second span, Jason Love hit a hook shot from the paint and Dante’ Jackson a 3 in transition.
Miller credited Redford for helping the Musketeers overcome a cold night from guard B.J. Raymond, who went 1-of-6 for three points. He’s averaging 12.2 points per game this season.
“Tonight wasn’t his night, especially in the first half,” Miller said. “So when you can replace him with someone who can make shots like Brad did, it really gives you a shot in the arm.”