13Xavier
Dayton
57 - 51 Final
  for this game

Xavier claims share of A-10 title in win over Dayton

Feb 25, 2008 - 12:04 AM DAYTON, Ohio (Ticker) -- At one point this season, Dayton looked like the team to watch in the Atlantic 10. On Sunday, Xavier proved it is the team to beat.

Josh Duncan scored 14 points as the 12th-ranked Musketeers hit seven consecutive free throws down the stretch en route to a 57-51 victory over the Flyers.

The win gave Xavier (24-4, 12-1 A-10) its 10th straight win and allowed it to clinch at least a share of the regular-season conference title. After an 8-3 start, the Musketeers have won 16 of their last 17 contests, defeating the Flyers for the fifth straight time.

"For us to get at least share a conference championship is very meaningful to us," Xavier coach Sean Miller said. "Our team has taken on a great responsibility to be our best and to keep working to improve.

"We've been fortunate to be in the situation we are in. I'm excited about the opportunity of being co-champs at this point."

Xavier can clinch the conference title outright with a loss by St. Joseph's (7-4), which plays at Rhode Island on Sunday evening.

The Flyers (17-9, 5-8) opened the season with a 14-1 record, including 13 straight wins until a loss to Massachusetts on January 16. Dayton was then blown out by Xavier, 69-43, in its next game and has stumbled to a 3-6 mark since.

"We're not worried about our record," Dayton forward Charles Little said. "We're just trying to take it one game at a time. We are worried about Fordham right now.

"Of course we're somewhat frustrated, but we're not throwing in the towel or hanging our heads. We just have to believe in ourselves and come to work."

Xavier, which led 29-27 at halftime, built its biggest lead of the game at 43-33 after a jumper from Jason Love with 11:54 remaining.

Brian Roberts, Dayton's leading scorer, hit a pair of free throws to rally the Flyers to within 45-42 at the 7:13 mark of the game.

After a free throw from the Musketeers' B.J. Raymond, each team exchanged baskets before Duncan hit two free throws to establish a 50-44 lead with 3:37 remaining. Duncan and Roberts each hit a pair of free throws as neither team could record a field goal over the next three-plus minutes.

Drew Lavender, who was limited to 14 minutes in Thursday's win over Duquesne because of a sprained ankle, sank four straight free throws to expand Xavier's bulge to 56-49. He finished with nine points in 33 minutes of action.

"Right now, a true testament to our team is Drew Lavender, who is nowhere near himself," Miller said. "I give Drew full credit for playing hurt."

Stanley Burrell hit the first of two attempts from the foul line to extend the lead to 57-49 with 15 seconds remaining before Dayton's Mickey Perry converted a layup to account for the final margin.

Xavier has made a habit lately of winning close games, something that was not lost on Dayton coach Brian Gregory.

"We were playing a high-quality team who has won every close game they've played in and you have to make certain plays down the stretch in the last five minutes," Gregory said. "When you play a team like Xavier, the margin for error is much smaller. They took advantage of the little mistakes we made."

The Musketeers improved to 6-1 this season in games decided by six points or less, with five of those wins coming in the last contests.

Equally frustrating for the Flyers was their inability to win despite a 32-16 advantage in the paint. They also grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, but could only convert those opportunities into 14 second-chance points.

"I think we have to do a better job of finishing plays around the basket," Roberts said. "(When) you play Xavier and get 15 offensive rebounds, that means you're going pretty hard."

Roberts was the only Flyer to finish in double figures with 15 points.