Saturday, February 09, 2002

Skip no edge for Deacons

Former XU coach says team counts more vs. Bearcats

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins couldn't find much of an advantage while preparing for today's game against Wake Forest.

        The 19th-ranked Demon Deacons don't look like the same team that came to Shoemaker Center last year, losing 78-72 in overtime.

        And they don't look much like the Xavier teams coached by Skip Prosser, now in his first year at Wake.

        “It's not like either,” Huggins said. “Skip's changed a bunch of stuff. They press a little bit but not very much. I think until he gets his guys in here, it won't be like it was before.

        “And (Wake Forest) doesn't play the way they've played before. Last year they were totally halfcourt.”

        Does Prosser have an edge today when his new team plays host to the No.6 Bearcats?

        After all, this will be his eighth game against UC, and his teams have won four of the last five, including twice when the Bearcats were ranked No.1.

        “I think every game is its own unique situation,” Prosser said. “What happened last year or the year before or whenever will have absolutely no bearing on what happens Saturday afternoon.”

        Wake Forest has won four straight games and is trying to match its longest winning streak of the season. It also has won 23 consecutive nonconference home games dating to December 1998.

        The Bearcats have not lost to the Demon Deacons in four previous meetings.

        “They're as athletic as can be,” Huggins said. “I think they're as good as anybody we've played. I think they're as good as Oklahoma State.”

        The Demon Deacons present problems inside and outside.

        Center Antwan Scott and forwards Josh Howard and Darius Songaila combine to average 41.9 points and 20.7 rebounds a game. UC's Donald Little, Jamaal Davis and Immanuel McElroy average 22.9 points and 18.5 rebounds.

        Howard sprained his ankle Thursday and did not practice Friday. Whether he plays today will be a game-time decision.

        Wake has shooting guard Craig Dawson (11.1 ppg) and brings off the bench senior Broderick Hicks, who scored a career-high 23 points against Florida State a week ago and had 18 at UC last year.

        Huggins worries about giving up second and third shots.

        Prosser is interested to see how his players respond to the challenge of UC's defense.

        “I don't think we've played a team that guards as well as they do,” Prosser said. “I don't think we've played a team that attacks the glass the way they do. Duke really has a scoring mentality, that no matter how many points you score, they're still going to score more. At Duke, we had 49 points at halftime and you feel pretty good about that — they had 61.”

        Mark Schmidt, a former Xavier assistant coach who prepared the scouting reports for the Bearcats for seven years, is head coach at Robert Morris. He has talked recently with Wake Forest assistant Chris Mack, a St. Xavier High School graduate who is scouting UC this year.

        “Lots of times we go into the (ACC) games telling the kids, "Listen, you know more about these guys than we do,'” Prosser said. “Where we probably know more about Cincinnati than our players do.”

        When Xavier played UC, it was often the highest-ranked opponent the Musketeers would face all season. There was also the emotional buildup of the rivalry and all the Crosstown Shootout hoopla.

        For Wake Forest, Cincinnati will be the eighth ranked opponent of the season to this point. And starting today, four of the Demon Deacons' next five games are against teams ranked in the top 10, including Duke, Maryland and Virginia.

        “I wouldn't say it's not as big a deal,” Dawson said. “Maybe not as big a deal as it is to our coaches. You know they're going to be juiced up for it. I think we'll feed off their energy and be pretty juiced up ourselves having an opportunity to knock off a top-five team.”

        Said Songaila: “We owe those guys. We lost at their place in overtime (last year). It was a tough game for us. It's going to be a battle. I know everybody's going to be pumped up.”


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• Nippert Stadium
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