Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 1/6/12
Xavier is going to get the opposition's best shot every game. Such is life as the Atlantic 10's defending champion. Couple that with rivals seeing the Musketeers looking very vulnerable lately, and there is no easy way out as Xavier (9-5, 0-1 Atlantic 10) tries to get back on track Saturday at Fordham. The Musketeers have struggled since a fight-marred win against Cincinnati on Dec. 10. They have lost five of six games since, the latest defeat an 80-70 decision at La Salle on Wednesday night. The Rams (7-6, 0-0) could pose a challenge for the visiting Musketeers even if Xavier were in top form. Fordham is 6-1 at Rose Hill Gym, with a 60-54 upset of No. 21 Harvard on Jan. 3 its latest and most impressive home result. Stopping junior forward Chris Gaston will be a top priority for Xavier. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Gaston had notched 11 double-doubles entering Fordham's conference opener at Massachusetts on Thursday night. Gaston has seven games with five offensive rebounds or more. Considering Xavier's defensive woes of late, limiting Fordham's second-chance opportunities is a must. Xavier outrebounded La Salle 46-40 on Wednesday. La Salle's win was its first vs. Xavier since 2005. Likewise, Fordham hasn't defeated Xavier since '05. The business of conference foes trying to settle old scores doesn't stop as Xavier tries to find its way out of a prolonged slump. NOTES, QUOTES --Senior PG Tu Holloway was held relatively in check in the loss at La Salle. Though he scored 14 points, he missed on all six of his 3-point attempts. He's now 0-of-8 on 3-pointers in his last two games. Holloway did well to get his teammates involved, though, dishing out seven assists. --Freshman G Dee Davis gave the Musketeers a lift off the bench with a pair of second-half 3-pointers as Xavier tried to get back into the game at La Salle. Davis was just 6-of-21 from long range entering the game. For a club that's struggling, Davis' outside shooting to start conference play is a positive. --Assistant coach Kareem Richardson has rejoined the coaching staff following lung surgery. During Richardson's absence, former Xavier grad and NBA standout Aaron Williams served as a temporary assistant coach. Williams scored 1,073 points in his XU career then played for nine NBA teams before retiring in 2007. BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Xavier lost two consecutive games at home for the first time since the 2004-'05 season when the Musketeers lost three straight to Miami of Ohio, Creighton and Mississippi State. QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're good. We just lost to a team that a lot of teams around the country won't schedule. I have belief in every single one of my players, on both ends of the floor." -- head coach Chris Mack following a loss to Gonzaga, XU's fourth loss in five games. STRATEGY AND PERSONNELTHIS WEEK'S GAMES:--at Fordham, Jan. 7KEY MATCHUPS: The Rams, who beat Georgia Tech on Dec. 29, are improved. But they averaged just 62.4 points through 12 games. Chris Gaston is the top scoring threat, and one of just two players averaging in double figures. If Xavier can keep the Rams at their average they should earn a road conference win. TRENDING: The Musketeers' defense needs to improve. Opponents are shooting 43.7 percent against Xavier in the last six games compared to just 34.9 percent during the Musketeers' 8-0 start. La Salle rolled to a 46-30 first-half lead Wednesday, getting too many good looks for the Musketeers' comfort. Though Xavier's defense was better in the final 20 minutes of regulation, it's very difficult to overcome a 16-point halftime deficit as a visitor. The Musketeers were able to claw within five points late in the game, but they could not sustain their rally. Fordham doesn't have a potent offense, so it will be interesting to see if Xavier's defense can step it up on Saturday. FUTURES MARKET: Xavier has benefited from Andre Walker's experience since he transferred from Vanderbilt. But it's Walker's defensive and rebounding effort that will be key for the Musketeers heading into conference play. Walker had a career-high three blocked shots in last week's loss to Gonzaga. He leads the team in rebounds and offensive rebounds. PLAYER NOTES --Freshman G Dezmine Wells and sophomore walk-on Landen Amos were reinstated for the Dec. 31 game vs. Gonzaga after serving four-game suspensions for their roles in a brawl with crosstown rival Cincinnati on Dec. 10. --Former Xavier G Dante Jackson is a graduate assistant coach at Ohio University. Jackson is pursuing a master's degree in coaching education. --Graduate student Andre Walker, a 6-foot-8 forward, is a 2011 Vanderbilt graduate. He played 84 games, including 40 starts, for the Commodores from 2007-08 through 2010-11. He will have just one season of eligibility at XU.
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