The 16th-ranked Saint Louis Billikens can clinch at least a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season title on Wednesday as the visit the unfriendly confines of the Cintas Center to duel with the Xavier Musketeers.
The Billikens have been one of the biggest surprises in the nation this season. Interim coach Jim Crews has done a remarkable job and led his unit to 11 straight victories, including a 66-58 road win at George Washington on Saturday. Junior forward Dwayne Evans registered his second consecutive double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the charge, while the Billikens outscored the Colonials, 21-8, at the charity stripe. A win in this one would also guarantee SLU the No. 1 seed in the A-10 Tournament as it defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 76-62, in the only meeting between the first and second place schools.
Evans is pacing the Billikens with 12.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per tilt while Cody Ellis is second in both categories with 10.6 points and 3.5 boards per game. SLU has defeated a school record four ranked foes this season. The Billikens lead the A-10 and are 19th nationally in scoring defense, yielding 57.9 ppg.
Xavier holds the all-time series lead at 29-14. Last year, SLU ended Xavier's 43-game conference home winning streak with a 73-68 victory at Cintas Center. SLU then defeated the Musketeers 70-59 during the regular season at Chaifetz Arena. However, Xavier prevailed 71-64 in the semifinals of the A-10 Tournament in Atlantic City.
Chris Mack's Musketeers enter with a 16-12 overall record after suffering a tough, 77-72 loss to Massachusetts at home on Saturday. Xavier managed to hold a 41-30 advantage in rebounding, but the Minutemen converted 49,1 percent of their field goal tries including 13-of-25 from 3-point range. The loss dropped Xavier to 52-3 in Atlantic 10 home games since 2007. The Musketeers are 10-4 at the Cintas Center this season.
Semaj Christon led Xavier with 17 points and Isaiah Philmore added 14 in its loss to UMass. Travis Taylor, who paces the A-10 on the boards with 8.6 rpg, grabbed eight rebounds to go along with 10 points, while the 3-point sniper Brad Redford chipped in 13 points off the bench. Taylor could be the first Musketeer to lead the A-10 in rebounding since NBA star David West. The freshman Christon will be a key contributor for the Musketeers for years to come as he has produced 15.0 points and 4.6 assists per tilt in his first campaign through college basketball.