Friday, November 19, 1999

Mount St. Joseph has loftier goals for its sophomore season




BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's only Year No. 2 for the Mount St. Joseph basketball program. Which is easy to forget after the Lions finished their inaugural season with a winning record (13-12). What to do now for an encore?

        “Last year, they were just satisfied having a team, and the record was going to be inconsequential,” coach Larry Cox said. “Expectations are higher. There is more pressure to try and exceed last year.”

        The Mount begins its season tonight against Gordon College (8 p.m., Harrington Student Center) in its own tournament.

        Fourteen letter-winners are back from last year's team. There are no seniors among the Lions' top 10 players. They are young but deep. Cox plans to use at least 10 players regularly and as many as 12.

        That's the only way, he believes, that his team can play the aggressive style he prefers. Last season, 10 guys played more than seven minutes, and nobody averaged more than 20.4 minutes.

        Cox thinks MSJ was able to compete with some better teams because it wore down opponents.

        “We call it attack basketball,” he said. “We attack the ball when we don't have it, and we attack the basket when we do.”

        Tonight's starting lineup: guards Jarett Young (1999 Heartland Conference Newcomer of the Year) and Eddie Dreyer, forwards Joe Toney (1999 Mount MVP) and Jared Franz and center Matt Hamil ton.

        Last season, only two players averaged in double figures, led by Young (10.7 ppg). Eight players averaged at least 6.2 points a game. “It's not a star system,” Cox said.

        The program is already ahead of schedule. Cox's goal from the start was to build a top-20 Division III program. Even he didn't expect a winning season right out of the gate.

        Now, to build on that, he said the Lions need to improve:

        • Rebounding: The Mount was even with opponents last year; Cox said that's not good enough.

        • Turnovers: The Lions forced 17.8 a game but committed 15.3.

        • Defense: Opponents shot 47.6 percent against MSJ. “A championship team needs to get closer to 38 to 40 percent.”

        “Why not be a good team now, if we're willing to pay the price?” Cox said. “Physically, you can see a big difference. Last year, they had that deer-in-the-headlights look. Now, there's a little more confidence in their stride.

        “We're just a little anxious to see if we're a year better or a year older. There's a big difference.”

       



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