December 04, 2015

Xavier was given some time to recover from a successful tournament run in Florida but was forced to spend time this week dealing with a widespread virus.

The 12th-ranked Musketeers didn't get as much practice time to prepare for one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams, Western Kentucky, and their attempt to match their best start in coach Chris Mack's tenure Saturday night.

Xavier dominated Dayton 90-61 in Sunday's Advocare Invitational championship for its sixth consecutive victory by double digits, but its return has been marred by illness.

Mack said the Musketeers (7-0) couldn't practice Wednesday because they didn't have enough healthy players but got virtually everyone back on the court Thursday.

"The good thing about the virus is it's been a 24-hour thing, 48 hours at most," he said Friday. "I thought we had a pretty good practice (Thursday) for not having gone live for two to three days."

The Musketeers had their only 8-0 start in Mack's seven seasons in 2011-12 and will try to tie that in this visit from the Hilltoppers (4-3). Western Kentucky is shooting 42.2 percent from beyond the arc and needed all of its season-high 14 3-pointers for an 86-84 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday.

Justin Johnson provided the winning basket and his first career 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left. The sophomore forward, averaging a team-best 16.9 points on 67.1 percent shooting and 8.6 rebounds, had 22 points while making 10 of 15 shots and added 11 boards.

Senior guard Aaron Cosby had a career-high 26 points while knocking down eight of 11 shots from long range. Cosby is 20 of 45 from 3-point range while senior Nigel Snipes is shooting 46.2 percent.

"They're a good team. They're going to come in here hungry and willing to get a win. We have to show why we need to defend this home court," said reserve forward James Farr, who leads Xavier with 9.0 rebounds per game and is shooting 59.3 percent in his last four.

The Hilltoppers have alternated wins and losses in each game. They've allowed 71.8 points on 38.6 percent shooting in the victories and 84.0 points on 47.8 percent shooting in the defeats.

Western Kentucky beat No. 25 Old Dominion 72-65 on Jan. 10 to end a nine-game losing streak against ranked opponents. The Hilltoppers have lost their last five visits to Top 25 teams by an average of 19.6 points and endured a 79-63 loss to No. 6 Louisville in the latest Dec. 14, 2013.

They haven't faced Xavier since a 93-60 drubbing to the nation's No. 9 team Dec. 6, 1997.

The Musketeers have won 19 straight at home against nonconference teams and are 204-30 all-time at Cintas Center since it opened for the 2000-01 season. That 87.2 winning percentage ranks 11th in the nation over that span.

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