Dominant second half puts Xavier's two-game skid to rest

CINCINNATI -- Six players in double figures. A season high in points. A defense that had its way. After back-to-back road losses, 14th-ranked Xavier was back home and back in form.

Brad Redford matched his career high with 15 points, all of them from behind the arc, and the Musketeers pulled out of their rut by dominating the second half and beating Fordham 88-53 on Saturday.

Xavier (21-4, 9-2 Atlantic 10) saw its defense slip during consecutive road losses at Duquesne and Dayton, both of whom shot 50 percent from the field. After a ragged start on Saturday, the Musketeers got back to dominating against the league's worst-shooting team.

"I thought we did a really good job," said Dante Jackson, who scored 13 points. "Early on, it went back-and-forth and we traded baskets. It was good for us to be able to buckle down and get some stops."

The Musketeers haven't lost three in a row since early in the 2004-05 season, and were never in trouble against the Rams (3-19, 1-9), who start a pair of freshmen and two sophomores. Fordham has lost four in a row, all by at least 23 points.

Redford led six Xavier players in double figures. Xavier made a season-high 14 3-pointers and finished with a season high in points.

"I thought we got some confidence back in a number of areas," coach Sean Miller said. "And we did a good job defending."

Sophomore guard Mike Moore led Fordham with a career-high 24 points.

In addition to trying to fix his team's defense the last few days, Miller has been working on his fan support, too. He had a new message for fans played on the videoboard before the game, urging them to be loud. He also had his players walk through the stands -- past the student section -- before taking the floor for warmups, another new twist.

There was yet one more change at the tip-off: Terrell Holloway was out of the starting lineup. The freshman point guard failed to get an assist in the last two games, and gave way to Jackson in the lineup. Holloway had started the last 13 games.

With Holloway still finding his way, the guard position remains unsettled only a few weeks before tournament time.

"If you look, all the great teams have solid backcourt play," Jackson said. "We're trying to be there. It's a work in progress. We're on the right track."

Miller has seen Holloway lose confidence lately, prompting him to make the switch on Saturday. Jackson is a sophomore shooting guard who has played at the point in both of the last two seasons.

"He's the better defender," Miller said. "He's the more experienced player. That's who we're going to go with to start the game and play the most."

The student section was louder -- it chanted Miller's name when he got a technical foul for arguing a call -- and Holloway passed the ball more often when he got onto the floor. The defense? At the outset, that was another matter.

Fordham made nine of its first 16 shots, keeping it close for the first 12 minutes. At that point, Xavier's man-to-man defense toughened, and Derrick Brown dunked off a rebound and had a 3-pointer during a 12-2 run that pushed the lead to 36-24.

Redford's fifth 3-pointer pushed the lead to 68-38 midway through the second half. The freshman shooting guard went 5-of-9 from behind the arc.

"My teammates did a good job of giving me screens," Redford said. "They gave me a little bit of space, and I was able to knock down some shots."

Holloway had another subpar game, getting only one of Xavier's 21 assists and two points during his 22 minutes.

Xavier played without 7-foot reserve center Kenny Frease, who sat on the bench in his warm-up jacket resting a sprained right ankle. The freshman played only 13 minutes during a loss at Dayton on Wednesday, getting four points and two rebounds despite the injury.

The Musketeers figured they could get by without him. They beat Fordham by 26 points on Jan. 11, and have won 16 of their 17 against the Rams since they joined the league.