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December 4, 2008B.J. Raymond scored a career-high 32 points against a Tigers defense that knew better than to leave him open, and No. 14 Xavier remained undefeated Wednesday night with a ragged 81-74 victory that exposed the Musketeers' vulnerable areas.
It also showed what can happen when their best shooter is on the mark.
"We won because B.J. had the best game of his career, and arguably one of the best games I've ever seen a Xavier player have in the seasons I've been here," coach Sean Miller said.
The Musketeers (7-0) matched the third-best start in their history and their best since 1996-97, when they won their first 10 for the school record. Raymond kept it going by firing away from outside against the Tigers (3-4), who had seen it before.
"I knew their style is they play extra guards and trap with them, so if you move the ball around you're going to get open shots," said Raymond, who was 10-of-13 from the field and made a career-high seven of his nine 3-point attempts. "I had a hot hand tonight. My mechanics, my follow-through and balance were good."
That was about all that was good in the second half for Xavier, which let most of a 22-point lead slip away with turnovers (22 overall) and 22-of-36 shooting on free throws. Without a true point guard to close out the game, the Musketeers struggled down the stretch.
They also repeatedly failed to get back on defense, allowing Auburn to get some easy baskets.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it," Raymond said. "We're probably the worst 7-0 team in the country right now. We didn't have good body language out there. We weren't there tonight. We've got to start our season over. Right now, we're not playing up to our potential."
Miller hinted there could be changes in the starting lineup for a game next week against Ohio because of the poor defense in the second half.
"We've got seven days to get ready for our next game, and it's going to be like we're 0-7," Miller said. "When you don't try or a couple of guys are not running back (on defense), that's not acceptable."
The 3-point shot made up for it.
In Xavier's 80-57 win at Auburn last Jan. 6, the Musketeers tied their school record by making 16 3-pointers. Raymond led the way in that one, going 6-of-8 from behind the arc with 18 points overall -- a performance that the Tigers surely remembered.
Stunningly, they left him open enough times to top it, letting Miller improve his record to 100-39 in his fifth season at Xavier.
Frankie Sullivan scored a career-high 23 points and helped Auburn cut a 22-point deficit to 60-51 with 6:55 left in the game. Raymond -- who else? -- blunted the comeback by making back-to-back 3-pointers, giving him a career-high seven in nine attempts.
"We had a game plan on him, but we didn't follow it through," Sullivan said. "We gave him too many open baskets, and you can't give him open jump shots."
Raymond had 16 points in a sloppy first half that featured a dozen turnovers by each team. He hit back-to-back 3s, the second one when he was unguarded on the left wing, in an eight-point run that closed the half and left Xavier in control 37-26.
Against Miami of Ohio last Saturday, Raymond had one of those rare games when he struggles with his shot, missing all but the last of his eight 3-point attempts. It didn't carry over against an Auburn defense more worried about taking away Xavier's inside game.
Even 7-foot freshman center Kenny Frease made the first 3-pointer of his career, connecting when he was left unguarded at the top of the key.
But the problems at point guard undercut Xavier's hot shooting -- 53.5 percent overall from the field.