WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sean Miller wanted his team's attention. Three days after No. 20 Xavier was pounded by Atlantic-10 rival Temple in Philadelphia, their coach told them it couldn't happen again.
The Musketeers made sure it didn't -- barely.They had trouble with George Washington, and it wasn't until the final moments that Xavier secured a 74-66 win over the Colonials.Xavier (15-4, 3-1 Atlantic 10), had two runs -- one in the first half that gave them a 10-point lead, and one midway through the second half that put them up by 11 -- 53-42.George Washington (5-8, 1-2) fought back, but Drew Lavender and Josh Duncan made sure that the Muskeeters didn't return home with another loss."That really wasn't us [on Wednesday]," Miller said. "We were much more composed in this game."Lavender and Duncan each scored 12 of their 14 points in the second half."I stuck with it," Duncan said. "I was fortunate."Everyone on the Musketeers was. Down only 66-63, George Washington's Damian Hollis took a step backward and out of bounds with 37.5 seconds to play.Lavender. who came into the game 91.5 percent from the free-throw line, hit three of four in the final seconds. He had missed just four foul shots this season, was 6-for-8 from the line.After their 19-point loss to Temple, which broke a six-game winning streak, it's entirely possible that the Muskeeters will fall out of the national rankings, but that doesn't concern Lavender."I don't get into the rankings," Lavender said. "We played good enough to win. We let everyone else get into rankings."Miller campaigned for recognition of his conference, which he says is underrated. This week, three teams: Dayton, Xavier and Rhode Island are nationally ranked, though all have lost."I hope we're one of the better teams in our conference," Miller said. "I respect our conference a great deal. I don't know if it's ever gotten enough credit. It certainly should this year."On January 10, the Colonials held Saint Louis to a shot-clock era record 20 points. Nine days later, their coach, Karl Hobbs, couldn't heap enough praise on Xavier."Clearly, they are maybe the best team we've played -- and we've played UCLA," Hobbs said.George Washington was led by Maureece Rice, who scored a season-high 22 points. Rice was 4-for-11 from 3-point range, but his teammates were just 3-for-17, and Hobbs credited Xavier rather than faulting his team."That's what veteran teams do. They created opportunities for themselves," Hobbs said. "When they needed to make the big plays, they made big plays."