CINCINNATI (AP) -- Wearing the dark blue warm-up suit he never shed, point guard Drew Lavender climbed the ladder and snipped off a piece of the net, his personal keepsake from a championship season.
Xavier (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) plans to keeps those scissors close at hand.While Lavender rested his sprained ankle to get ready for the postseason, the Musketeers polished off one of the best regular seasons in their history Saturday with an 86-61 victory over Richmond.Then, with fans spilling onto the floor and blue-and-silver confetti wafting from the rafters, the Musketeers cut down the net in front of their bench to celebrate their second straight Atlantic 10 regular-season title, which they clinched more than a week ago."We're not done," said senior guard Stanley Burrell, one of five players in double figures. "This year, we're hungry, we're greedy. We want to keep winning."B.J. Raymond scored a career-high 22 points, Xavier made a season-high 36 free throws, and the Musketeers (26-5, 14-4) headed into the conference tournament with momentum and a rested playmaker.First, they finished off the Spiders (16-13, 9-7) and a record-setting regular season. The 26 wins are their most in a regular season, two shy of the school record for victories overall.They have a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament and will play their next game Thursday in Atlantic City, N.J.Since they clinched the title, the Musketeers have been trying to get Lavender back to full-speed. The senior point guard has been hobbled by a sprained left ankle for the last seven games, limiting their balanced offense.Lavender, Burrell and forward Josh Duncan were honored as seniors before the game.
Lavender practiceed this week and scored nine points in a 71-66 loss at Saint Joseph's on Thursday night. Coach Sean Miller said Lavender decided not to play in Saturday's game, which started 48 hours after the last one."In the other games, he was out there a little bit to set the tone," said Burrell, who has played point guard in his absence. "Knowing he was going to be out the whole time was a little tough mentally."We're missing a key guy. When Drew's out there and we're clicking on all cylinders, we're going to be a really dangerous team."Miller, who cut the last few strands of net and waved it triumphantly to the crowd, isn't sure how much Lavender during the conference tournament."I think we just have to take it one day at a time, to get to that point and just do what's best for him," Miller said.Richmond, one of the conference's youngest teams, finished its best regular season in five years, but wasn't able to get much traction the last few weeks. The Spiders alternated wins and losses in their last six games.Kevin Anderson scored 20 for Richmond, which has lost its last six games against Xavier.Raymond got Xavier rolling midway through the first half by hitting a pair of 3s in a 14-3 spurt that put Xavier ahead to stay. Raymond had 12 points in the half, which ended with Xavier up 32-26.The Musketeers went to the basket aggressively at the start of the second half, drawing 10 fouls in the first five minutes. Xavier took control with a 22-3 run that included 18 points off free throws. Both field goals during the run came on three-point plays."Everybody's a good free-throw shooter on this team," said Duncan, who was 11-of-13 from the line and finished with 13 points. "We let the open guy attack the basket, hit our free throws and pulled away."Xavier, one of the conference's best at free throws, went 36-of-43 at the line overall. Richmond was 9-of-17.