Saturday, December 18, 1999

Shootout or blowout?

No. 1 UC has the guns - can Xavier fans be equalizer?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

UC's Pete Mickeal
(AP photo)
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        In his first season with the Bearcats, forward Pete Mickeal responded to one of many questions asked about the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout by delivering what Xavier fans consider the quintessential insult.

        Called them “X-avier,”he did.

        It played on the news all week.

        Mickeal knows better now that he's been a Cincinnatian for 16 months. He knows the Cincinnati Gardens will provide an electric atmosphere for today's 9 p.m. game between No. 1-ranked UC (8-0) and XU (5-2), although he's never been inside the building and only driven past once. He knows the Musketeers are a quick team that likes to attack, although he claims not to know any of the players well.

        He knows playing on the road in this series is a challenge, because he witnessed the frenzy Shoemaker Center directed against the Muskies last January.

Lloyd Price6-5So15.0
Kevin Frey6-8So8.6
David West6-8Fr9.4
Maurice McAfee6-0Jr15.6
Darnell Williams6-5Sr12.6
Pete Mickeal6-6Sr12.0
Jermaine Tate6-9Sr4.0
Kenyon Martin6-9Sr15.6
DerMarr Johnson6-9Fr14.8
Steve Logan6-0So13.4
        “Our crowd was crazy. I've never heard them like that, and never will again, probably,” Mickeal said. “Before this game, they're going to be on all of us warming up. And I love that. I love playing away, better than I do at home. I'm not going to get too many more games in college basketball, and I want to make the most of them.”

        This will be Mickeal's last Shootout, the last for teammates Kenyon Martin, Ryan Fletcher and Jermaine Tate and the last for XU seniors Darnell Williams and Obi Harris. It will be the last for the Gardens, which will lose its job as XU's homecourt to the new Cintas Center.

        In the days leading to the Shootout, though, there has been a conspicuous lack of hysteria. UC had a conference game scheduled for two days before the Xavier matchup, which the Bearcats decisively won over Saint Louis. The Musketeers had final exams.

        Xavier has freshman David West in its starting lineup. UC uses guards DerMarr Johnson and Kenny Satterfield in its primary rotation. They've not been around long enough to gain a complete understanding of this game's repercussions.

        “It's something special to see,” said XU coach Skip Prosser. “It's as intense, as eventful an evening as there is, in my opinion, in college basketball. It's only enhanced by the fact we're playing the No. 1 team in the country.”

        If there is a key element to this game for the Bearcats, it may be how well they responds to the Shootout atmosphere at the start. UC has outscored opponents in eight first halves by an average of 43-25. If the Bearcats can be as proficient offensively as they've been, entering the ball to Martin in the post to start their offense, Xavier could have matchup problems.

        “We're going to attack them. We're going to attack everybody,” UC coach Bob Huggins said. “We're not into limiting possessions.”

        If there is a key element for the Musketeers, it probably is controlling the basketball. They've turned over the ball nearly 20 times per game.

        “So many of the turnovers are based on bad decisions,” Prosser said. “I told the kids, "We're not going to play a perfect game, and they aren't either. We just have to play a good, solid game and try to limit their cheap ones off of second shots and off our turnovers.”

Xavier's Lloyd Price battles for a loose ball.
(AP photo)
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        If there is a key matchup in the game, it likely involves Mickeal and Xavier's Lloyd Price, the small forwards.

        Mickeal is UC's best perimeter defender and has shut down such players as Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom, both now in the NBA, and this season held North Carolina's Joseph Forte and Saint Louis' Justin Love to a combined 26 points and .250 3-point shooting. They entered averaging 38 points between them.

        Price averages 15 points and .541 shooting from the field and is as effective a penetrating player as Mickeal has played this year. He is not yet a consistent long-range threat but is exceedingly difficult to keep from slicing into the defense.

        “I want to be a key player, and that's not only this game, that's every game,” Price said. “You look forward to playing guys with big names. It's a personal challenge. You get to see where you are as a player, and a man, as well.

        “This is a very emotional game. It means a lot to everybody. You could tell by this week of practice. We're focusing a lot more.”

        It's hard to tell how much of an advantage that opportunity to pay extra attention to the Bearcats is for XU.

        There has been no time to badger the Bearcats about the Shootout, so they've been able to approach this game with a facade, at least, that it's no different than their win against North Carolina in the Great Eight or the visit to undefeated Oklahoma that beckons Wednesday.

        “I think it means more to Xavier than it does to us at this time of year,” Mickeal said. “We're No. 1, and they're sitting home right now and they watched the Saint Louis game, thinking about all the mistakes we made on the court, saying, "Yeah, we're going to exploit all them. We're going to do this, do that, press them, trap them.' They're getting ready.”

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