Musketeers taking control of the A-10

Updated: January 28, 2008

AP Photo/Nancy Palmieri

Xavier has quietly taken over the Atlantic 10 lead after an early stumble.

Key Shot

AMHERST, Mass. -- Xavier lost its toughness, swagger and purpose to some extent when it was pounded by 19 points at Temple two weeks ago.

That's how the Musketeers analyzed their own self-destruction in Philadelphia.

Since then, 22nd-ranked Xavier has dismantled Dayton at home and, on Sunday, run away from Massachusetts on the road.

If you're looking for a tight race in the Atlantic 10, you might be disappointed. The Musketeers (17-4 overall, 5-1 A-10) seem to be ready to run away from the league, even if the standings don't show that just yet with Charlotte and Saint Joseph's tied with Xavier with one loss.

"We're still the team to beat, and there ain't nothing wrong with saying that," said Xavier senior guard Stanley Burrell after the Musketeers beat the Minutemen, 77-65, at the Mullins Center. "We've got confidence in saying that."

Xavier hasn't shied away from competition this season, playing Indiana in the Chicago area, Creighton, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Kansas State, Virginia, at Auburn and at Arizona State. The only blemishes in that bunch were against Tennessee and ASU.

There was a natural letdown when Xavier went into A-10 play.

"We did a terrible job of getting ready for the league," Burrell said. "We had just played Kansas State and Virginia, and now we're going to play the A-10. You can't do that. You've got to bring it. They all have the hunger to play us since they see us on TV."

Xavier senior guard Drew Lavender said the Musketeers were too comfortable "thinking we were better than we were. We thought we'd come into the A-10 and just win because we beat all those other teams. And then Temple just blew us out."

Lavender and Burrell said they feel they're the target for every team, which Lavender said must be akin to what Duke and North Carolina go through in the ACC.

"Everywhere you go, you feel like it's their key game," Burrell said. "As long as we do what coach [Sean Miller] tells us to do, we shouldn't have a problem. If we don't, then what happened at Temple will happen again."

Burrell is making sure there are no defensive slip-ups. He has been one of the top defenders in the league, locking up UMass' Ricky Harris -- who entered Sunday's game averaging 25.3 points the previous four games -- to a tune of 2-of-8 shooting for seven points. Dayton's Brian Roberts couldn't shake Burrell, either, as the Dayton senior scored just five points, 14 below his average.

"He cares so much about being the stopper," Miller said.

The entire Musketeers team has become much more efficient defensively, too. Xavier forced UMass into tough angles and shots as the Minutemen got their fewest points in the past seven games.

"We couldn't have won this game earlier in the A-10 because a couple of weeks ago, we weren't playing defensively the way you have to, to be a good team," Miller said.

UMass coach Travis Ford said that Xavier was physically stronger than his team, that Burrell was the best defender he has seen all season and that Xavier is the class of the A-10. The responsibility of being the favorite is something Miller said the Musketeers need to be reminded of often.

Xavier's win over UMass was the first of several trips to face the top teams in the A-10, with games coming at Charlotte, Rhode Island, Dayton and Saint Joseph's. Of the top six teams, only Xavier and Saint Joseph's play the other five on the road in the A-10's unbalanced schedule.

"I like the fact that every game we'll play on the road, everyone will point to and say that was a tough game," Miller said.

By dropping its second game in a row, having lost at Saint Joseph's earlier in the week, UMass fell to 2-3 in the A-10.

"We need to play better because we're not playing as well as we're capable of," Ford said. "We're a very good basketball team. We're one of the top teams [in the A-10], one of the best teams, and that's not the way we're playing right now. We've got to get back to the edge and play with the purpose that we were playing with."

Key Notes

Maryland shot 54.4 percent from the floor in its loss to Duke on Sunday. It was the Terps' 69th home game in the past 10 seasons in which they've made at least half of their shots -- but only the second time they have lost such a game. Both those losses were against Duke.

• Maryland's Bambale Osby had 20 points and 15 rebounds in the Terps' loss at home to Duke. Both established career highs, but Maryland has lost three of the five games in which the senior has recorded a double-double. All five have come this season.

• In the past five seasons of the Army-Navy basketball rivalry, Army has won the first game of the season series each time, including Sunday's 69-67 win. Jarell Brown scored a career-high 35 points in the win. The Midshipmen should be confident when the schools face off again Feb. 23, however. Navy has won the second game of the season series in each of the previous four seasons.

Seton Hall defeated Cincinnati, 64-61, giving the Pirates four straight Big East wins. The last time the Pirates had a conference win streak this long was in the 2005-06 season, when they won five straight. This is the first time since joining the Big East that the Pirates have won four straight conference games in January.

Illinois beat Northwestern, 70-37. It was the Illini's largest margin of victory in a conference game since March 3, 2005, when they beat Purdue, 84-50. Over the past decade, Illinois has allowed fewer than 40 points in four conference games -- three of them against Northwestern.

Durell Vinson of Wagner grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds in the Seahawks' four-point win over Fairleigh Dickinson. This is the 15th time a Division I player has pulled down 20 rebounds in a game this season.

• Florida's Nick Calathes had 15 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in the Gators' blowout over Vanderbilt. He has 335 points, 104 rebounds and 127 assists this season. The only other Division I players with at least 300 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists this season are Mike Green (Butler), Tony Lee (Robert Morris) and Greivis Vasquez (Maryland). Calathes is the only freshman on that list.

Sean Singletary of Virginia had eight assists in the Cavaliers' 92-82 overtime loss to Georgia Tech. That pushes his career assist total to 505, making him the fifth player in ACC history to record 1,500 points, 500 assists and 400 rebounds. The others are Johnny Dawkins and Danny Ferry of Duke and Tony Akins and Brian Oliver of Georgia Tech.

Courtney Lee of Western Kentucky scored a career-high 33 points in the home win over Arkansas State. In two other career home games against the Indians, he had 32 combined points, but the Hilltoppers still won both of those games, too.


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On Tap For Monday

• Louisville at UConn, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 9 ET (ESPN)

Top 25 Losses

With the new polls coming out Monday afternoon, here is a look at the teams in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 that lost in last week's action ...

• No. 5 Tennessee (lost to Kentucky)
• No. 6 Washington State (lost to Arizona)
• No. 8 Indiana (lost to UConn)
• No. 11 Wisconsin (lost to Purdue)
• No. 13 Vanderbilt (lost to Florida)
• No. 15 Mississippi (lost to Mississippi State)
• No. 16 Texas A&M (lost to Baylor)
• No. 17 Pitt (lost to Rutgers)
• No. 18 Villanova (lost to Rutgers, Notre Dame)
• No. 19 Dayton (lost to No. 22 Xavier, Richmond)
• No. 25 Clemson (lost to Miami-Fla.)

For all the Top 25 rankings, click here.

Florida hands Vandy another loss

Writer's Take On Duke's Win Over Maryland

Duke has gone quietly about its business and on Sunday night -- in front of a passionate Maryland crowd still soaring from last week's upset of then-No. 1 North Carolina -- did it again with a 93-84 win over the Terps.

In case nobody noticed, Duke is the only team still undefeated in ACC play.

"If we go far enough with this thing, people will start talking about us," senior guard DeMarcus Nelson said. "No worries."

Krzyzewski scoffed at the notion that his program ever flies under the radar, ("Otherwise, these people wouldn't be out there or in our place trying to beat us," he said), but conceded that this year's group isn't exactly fearsome.

"We're not an outstanding team," Krzyzewski said of his Blue Devils, whose one loss came against Pitt. "We're a good team that's playing real hard. You can see from our lineups, sometimes everybody is 6-5 and under, so that's not going to evoke fear. We just have to collectively try to figure out how to win. So far they've done that, and they've done a really good job of that."

The top criticism of Duke this season has been its lack of a legitimate post player, and Clemson and Maryland have both exposed it, but the Blue Devils have compensated for it by pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers. Maryland senior Bambale Osby, a physically imposing forward whose old-school Afro is as retro as his back-to-the-basket game, and senior James Gist, whose play has been the barometer of the Terps' success this season, combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds against Duke. Nelson called them the "toughest frontcourt we've played all year."

-- Heather Dinich, ESPN.com

For more of Heather Dinich's story, click here.

Down to six scholarship players, Syracuse wins

Miami knocks off Clemson

Leaders

National scoring leaders:
1. Reggie Williams, VMI 27.3 ppg
2. Charron Fisher, Niagara 27.0 ppg
3. Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin 26.9 ppg
4. Michael Beasley, Kansas State 25.3 ppg
5. Stephen Curry, Davidson 23.9 ppg

National rebounding leaders:
1. Michael Beasley, Kansas State 12.7 rpg
2. Ryan Bright, Sam Houston State 11.6 rpg
3. Jon Brockman, Washington 11.5 rpg
4. Arizona 'AZ' Reid, High Point 11.4 rpg
5. Kevin Love, UCLA 11.3 rpg

National assist leaders:
1. Jason Richards, Davidson 8.4 apg
2. Mike Jefferson, High Point 7.5 apg
3. TeeJay Bannister, Liberty 7.4 apg
4. Jay Greene, UMBC 7.2 apg
4. Paul Stoll, Texas-Pan American 7.2 apg

For all the stats, click here.

Road To Perfection

Here is a look at the next five games for the last two unbeaten Div. I men's teams:
Kansas:
• Jan. 30: at Kansas State, 8 ET (ESPN Full Court)
• Feb. 2: at Colorado, 3:30 ET (ABC)
• Feb. 4: Missouri, 9 ET (ESPN)
• Feb. 9: Baylor, 8 ET (ESPN Full Court)
• Feb. 11: at Texas, 9 ET (ESPN)

Memphis:
• Jan. 30: at Houston, 8 ET
• Feb. 2: UTEP, 1 ET
• Feb. 6: Southern Methodist, 9 ET
• Feb. 9: Central Florida, 4 ET
• Feb. 13: Houston, 9 ET