Friday, December 17, 1999

Muskies can't beat Bearcats - can they?




BY PAUL DAUGHERTY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Xavier shouldn't show up. The Musketeers should leave the Cincinnati Gardens to Kenyon Martin's eight arms. The sellout crowd could amuse itself by counting how many shots Martin blocks in the layup line.

        “He's a difficult matchup for us,” Muskies coach Skip Prosser said. “He's a difficult matchup for everyone, A to Z, Arizona to Xavier.”

        Thank you very much, Coach Berra.

        Xavier shouldn't stick around. Not with Pete Mickeal slashing the Muskies' young middle. Not with Kenny Satterfield dive-bombing into the lane and dropping no-look passes all over any notions of a Xavier zone defense. Not with Steve Logan hitting from the wing and DerMarr Johnson from the corner.

Improbable victories
        Against No. 1 UC Saturday, Xavier has as much chance as Linda Tripp in a bikini.

        This is what I hear. It's from UC fans, of course. They tend to be more vocal than Muskies fans. Muskies fans are nice, polite and work for a living. This is also what I hear.

        But I also heard this, from Steve Wolf, XU '83:

        “In 1980, we were supposed to lose by a lot. I mean, we had Gary Massa in the middle. (Coach Bob) Staak would say Massa needed a machete to get open. But with 55 seconds to go, we're up nine and Staak calls a timeout. He says, "Fifty-five seconds and we own this (freakin') town.' I'll never forget it.”

        Then there is this voice from the improbable past:

        “The play was designed to Torraye. Coach Battle just said, "Go.' I caught it at the top of the key, dribbled left, came back right, shot it near the foul line.”

        That was Lenny Brown, who was the second option on a play designed for Torraye Braggs, three years ago. Braggs wasn't open; XU assistant coach Jeff Battle told Brown to get open, he did, and the rest was a gleeful buzzer and a singing net. UC was No. 1 then, too. “We were supposed to lose by 18,” Prosser said.

Looks like a mismatch
        It can happen. Xavier shouldn't win this game. No one will be surprised if the Muskies don't. These No. 1 Bearcats are better than those No. 1s, if only because this team has a point guard. Between Satterfield and Logan, it has two.

        And this Xavier team is not the '96 club, which returned a starting backcourt, a physical forward (Braggs) to flex with the Bearcats in the lane and two supremely gifted athletes (James Posey and Darnell Williams).

        But the unlikely can happen and does, often enough that this is the best city rivalry in the country. In speaking of another blood feud, I think it was former Miami basketball coach Darrell Hedric who said, “You can throw the personnel out the window for this one.”

        If somebody tries throwing Kenyon Martin, I'm calling the SWAT cops.

        “Whoever blinks first is going to lose,” Brown decided. He's with the Cincinnati Stuff now, learning to play point guard in hopes of landing another NBA tryout. Brown is third all-time among XU scorers. He started for four years. He got a degree. He is remembered almost entirely for The Shot.

        “Coach Prosser's going to tell them, "If you're not ready to play, you're going to get embarrassed,'” Brown said. “The first five or 10 minutes will tell a lot. Both teams are like sharks in this game. They'll smell blood.”

        It can be done. Maybe if Xavier slows its pace, plays some zone, makes some shots, pounds the defensive boards, gets Martin in foul trouble. If Martin and Johnson and Mickeal sign with an agent on the team bus on the way 'cross town ...

        “I don't think we're bad,” Prosser protested. “We are 5-2. We've beaten some good teams.”

        The Muskies are at the Alamo. But they could also be Eric Davis homering off Dave Stewart in the first game of the 1990 World Series. By 11:30 Saturday night, David West could be Lorenzo Charles. Skip Prosser could be Jim Valvano.

        It could happen.

        “UC is stacked. But in this game, you never can tell,” Brown said.

        Nope. You never can.

        Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454. Fair Game, a collection of his columns, is available at local bookstores.



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