CINCINNATI (AP) - Dante Jackson was the last Xavier player to climb the step ladder and cut a piece of the nylon net. He held up his small, white keepsake for the crowd to cheer.
Another Xavier senior class had come away with a snippet of a title.
Jackson scored 18 points - one shy of his career high - and No. 23 Xavier beat Charlotte 68-48 on Wednesday night to secure at least a share of its fifth straight Atlantic 10 regular-season title, matching the league record.
``Who would have thought a couple of months ago that we'd be cutting down the net on our home court with one game to go?' coach Chris Mack said.
The Musketeers (23-6, 14-1) overcame a series of injuries, winning their latest title with a depleted roster that was good enough to uphold a tradition. During its 16 seasons in the A-10, Xavier has won outright or shared nine regular-season titles and four tournament championships.
``The tradition kept going,' said forward Jamel McLean, wearing a net around his neck.
Wednesday's victory secured the top seed in the conference tournament and left Xavier one game ahead of Temple with one to play.
McLean had 11 points and 13 rebounds as Xavier's seniors took the lead on a night in their honor. Xavier completed its fifth straight undefeated A-10 season at home. The Musketeers have won a league-record 40 consecutive home games.
Derrio Green and Chris Braswell had 14 points each for Charlotte (10-19, 2-13), which gave the Musketeers their only league loss.
``Xavier has been a model of excellence in this league,' Charlotte coach Alan Major said. ``They're playing with a short bench - seven guys - and they've got some iron men on that roster.'
Xavier honored its three senior scholarship players - Jackson, McLean and Andrew Taylor - and three walk-ons before the game. The Musketeers ended the night by taking turns cutting down the net in front of their bench while a spray of blue, white and silver confetti fluttered from the ceiling.
Nobody's done more snipping in the A-10. The five straight titles tie the league record with Massachusetts, which finished with the best record in the A-10 from 1992-96.
All the subplots worked in Xavier's favor.
The Musketeers were trying to make up for their only conference loss, 66-62 in Charlotte on Feb. 2. The Musketeers played by far their worst game of the last couple months, with point guard Tu Holloway going 3 for 17 from the field against Charlotte's zone defense.
``We just wanted it so bad,' Jackson said.
The 49ers haven't won a game since, dropping seven straight. Point guard Jamar Briscoe hurt his back in practice on Tuesday and didn't play.
McLean got Xavier rolling with a crowd-pleasing play. He got an offensive rebound, missed a layup attempt, got the rebound and missed another point-blank shot before tipping it in.
McLean's high-energy play started a 12-0 run that put Xavier ahead to stay. Jackson completed the run with consecutive 3-pointers from the same spot on the right wing.
Jackson was in a deep shooting slump for the first half of the season, but has found his touch down the stretch. He made all of his five shots in the first half - three from behind the arc - for 13 points, helping Xavier pull ahead 36-25.
Holloway had another subpar first half against Charlotte's zone, missing his only shot and playing only 13 minutes because of foul trouble. Holloway sneaked into the media room in his gray uniform and had a plate of barbecue two hours before tipoff.
Holloway made a pull-up jumper and two free throws to open the second half and start a 10-2 run that put it away. He took only six shots, content to pass to the seniors for baskets. Holloway finished with eight assists and a season-low four points.
``Tu came out today and decided he wanted to be a facilitator,' McLean said.
The Associated Press News Service
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