By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The two-game losing streak that had been nagging at Xavier University since Saturday was all but forgotten by the time the Musketeers took a 21-point lead 12 minutes into Wednesday's 84-45 victory over La Salle.
Xavier guard Dedrick Finn drives past La Salle's Mike Cleaves during Wednesday's game at Cintas Center.
Steven M. Herppich/The Cincinnati Enquirer
Defense, ball movement, balanced scoring: Each was on display at Cintas Center as the Musketeers evened their Atlantic 10 Conference record at 2-2 and moved to 10-6 overall with the dominating win in front of 9,909. The 39-point margin was the largest for Xavier against an Atlantic 10 opponent and the largest against any team since a 39-point win in the second game last season, against St. Peter's.
Xavier played harder and smarter from the start than La Salle (7-10, 2-2), which was without flu-stricken head coach Billy Hahn.
"Tonight we played with more focus defensively and more effort defensively," Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "It was more important to us."
The Musketeers led 28-7 when Dedrick Finn stole the ball in the backcourt and converted a layup. The halftime margin was 47-19 after Xavier made 62.1 percent of its first-half shots and limited La Salle to 30.4 percent.
The point total was Xavier's highest first-half output of the season, and all nine Xavier players who entered the game scored in the first half. Lionel Chalmers scored 13 of his 22 points in the half.
By the end of the game, all 11 active Xavier players had played and 10 had scored.
Xavier built its lead to 40, at 66-26, when Will Caudle put back an offensive rebound midway through the second half.
The only drawback of the night for Xavier was seeing senior center Anthony Myles leave the game early in the second half with a minor ankle injury. But the Musketeers were not in short supply of reserves down low.
Caudle scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Brandon Cole pulled down 10 boards and scored eight points. Caudle played his most significant game since falling ill after the Dec. 23 Iowa State game.
"After the Duquesne game, we had a talk with those guys coming off the bench," Matta said. "We need production. We need a few points, some rebounds, some steals, some deflections."
The performance was the type of confidence builder Xavier might have needed following consecutive losses to Duquesne and Saint Joseph's that had left the Musketeers at the bottom of the A-10 West standings.
"It came at the right time," Chalmers said. "Coach was saying, 'Tough times don't last, but tough people do.' I think we showed that tonight."
Now, Xavier is 2 1/2 games behind first-place Dayton, which improved to 5-0 with a win against George Washington Wednesday.
Xavier will try to carry some of Wednesday's momentum into a Sunday matchup against Richmond at Cintas Center. The Spiders were rated No. 55 in the Ratings Percentage Index Wednesday and play tonight at Kansas.
Richmond was the last team to beat Xavier in Cintas before Saint Joseph's won here Saturday.
"We're not going to play them like we play La Salle," Chalmers said. "We're going to play them like we play Richmond. And we're going to come ready, because they did get a win here last year.
Team rebounds - 7.
Team rebounds - 2.
3-pointers - LS 4-16 (Bell 0-2, Smith 2-5, Thomas 2-3, G.Neal 0-5, Cleaves 0-1), XU 8-18 (Doellman 0-1, Chalmers 5-6, Sato 2-4, Finn 0-3, Cage 0-1, Christiansen 0-1, Compton 1-2). Technicals - None. Officials - DeMayo, Bush III, Sweeney. Attendance - 9,909.
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