GAME NOTES: It's been one week since Xavier suffered a heartbreaking loss at Richmond. On Saturday night, the Musketeers try to get back on the winning track when they face a struggling Duquesne team in Atlantic 10 Conference action in Pittsburgh.
Xavier's 73-71 loss to the Spiders was their third in four contests. Now the Musketeers will face a team that has yet to win in conference play this season. In fact, including last season's first-round exit in the A-10 tourney, the Dukes have dropped 10 consecutive conference clashes. Their last victory over a league foe was on Feb. 29, 2012 at Charlotte.
Xavier, which has won at least a share of five of the last six A-10 regular season championships, has been one of the strongest defensive clubs in the conference this season. The Musketeers rank second in scoring defense (61.3 ppg), fourth in field goal percentage defense (.412), and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.321).
Leading the way this season for the Musketeers is Semaj Christon, who averages 14.9 points a game. Travis Taylor, who had a game-high 25 points in the Richmond contest, is second in scoring (11.9 ppg) and fourth in the conference in rebounding at 8.1 boards per game. The Musketeers are third in the A-10 in rebounding margin, at plus-4.9, and in conference games that jumps to a plus-9.0.
The Dukes are on a 10-game losing streak, which dates back to a Dec. 19 victory against Western Michigan. Duquesne has lost six of its games by double digits on its current slide. That includes a 79-57 decision at home against George Washington on Wednesday. Derrick Colter scored 18 points and handed out six assists and Jeremiah Jones added 14 points for Duquesne in that setback.
Colter leads the Dukes in scoring (13.0 ppg), while Sean Johnson is the only other double-digit scorer (12.7 ppg) on the roster. Freshman Jeremiah Jones is averaging 13.7 ppg. on .481 shooting (13-of-27) in his past three games. Quevyn Winters and Jerry Jones both come off the bench to tally 8.3 ppg and 8.2 ppg, respectively, for a team that ranks 12th in scoring offense at 67.8 ppg. That's better than Xavier (64.4 ppg), but when you consider the Dukes have given up 74.3 ppg, second-most in the A-10, the positive results will not be there. The Dukes are also shooting just 63.8 percent from the foul line, worst mark in the A-10. There's also a wide spread in field goal percentage, with the Musketeers in first in the conference at 46.8 percent, and the Dukes next-to-last (.409). Duquesne also allow 38.1 percent shooting from 3-point range, last in the A-10.
Despite having lost dropped five of its past six on the road, Xavier comes into this game with a decided advantage over a team that hasn't won in more than seven weeks. The Musketeers have won the last three meetings, including a 28-point rout last season. Expect the Dukes to struggle with Xavier's suffocating defense.