Friday, December 14, 2001

Crosstown Shootout: THE EDGE


Positional breakdown

By Michael Perry and Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        POINT GUARD

        UC: Senior Steve Logan would have the advantage over most. He needs to have a solid game. That can mean shooting or passing. Logan is capable of nailing one jumper after another. If he is out of sync, as he was Monday night, so are the Bearcats. If this comes down to a final UC possession, the ball will likely be in Logan's hands.

        XU: Junior Lionel Chalmers has shown steady improvement in his first season as the full-time starter, including a career-best 23-point night against Missouri. A sprained ankle bugged him in his one poor game at Purdue. His defense and decision-making tonight will mean much more than his scoring output.

        EDGE: UC

        SHOOTING GUARD

        UC: This is one of the closer matchups. Junior Leonard Stokes has the potential to stand out in a number of ways: scoring, rebounding, passing or defense. He needs to shoot the ball better than he has been and help attack the boards. Stokes is the kind of player who could decide this one.

        XU: Sophomore Romain Sato has been inconsistent this season. When he misses a few shots early, he has a hard time getting going, such as in his four-point outing against Wisconsin. As the team's second-leading scorer (12.7 avg.) and rebounder (7.0), his contributions are invaluable. He scored 14 last year against UC.

        EDGE: UC

        SMALL FORWARD

        UC: Senior Immanuel McElroy has the experience and versatility to win this position. He played a minor role in last season's Shootout (13 minutes), but will probably be on the floor most of tonight. He gives UC some of its toughness and hustle. He needs to take and make open shots.

        XU: Junior Dave Young is a wild card tonight. His game is greatly developed over last season, when he played a limited role — including just three minutes in the Shootout. Young scored 19 points at San Francisco, but hasn't otherwise reached double figures. He averages 3.3 rebounds; XU needs more than that tonight.

        EDGE: UC

        POWER FORWARD

        UC: There is no doubt senior Jamaal Davis has been playing some of his best basketball, but this is a night he has to step up against a top opponent. If Davis wins the power forward battle, it will help UC's cause greatly. His experience, poise, defense and rebounding are all musts.

        XU: Senior Kevin Frey gets the edge here because he has played so well against UC. He is XU's warrior, welcoming the fierce play inside. He has had unsung contributions — 10 steals, for example — while trying to get his surgically repaired ankle up to speed. He'll need to exceed his 5.9 rebounding average.

        EDGE: XU

        CENTER

        UC: There is a fine line for junior Donald Little between playing too aggressively — and getting into foul trouble — and playing smart but not passive. That's his challenge. Little has to make some shots inside and force David West work at that end. And Little has to be at his best on the defensive end. He must stay in this game. Repeat: He must stay in this game.

        XU: If there's a game West needs to get selfish, it's this one. His career high for field-goal attempts is 17, and he averages 11.9 shots per game this season; he should shoot 20 times tonight. Drawing fouls — like last season, when he went 15-of-19 at the line against UC — is also crucial. When heavily guarded, West will find open teammates, who must make those shots.

        EDGE: XU

        BENCH

        UC: Hard to say what the Bearcats will get. Freshman Jason Maxiell has proven capable of dominating in stretches defensively and on the boards. Field Williams has put together streaks of 3-point baskets. Those are two wild cards for the Bearcats. Maxiell, especially, could play a big role inside. And remember, 6-5 Rodney Crawford came off the bench for a team-high nine rebounds last season.

        XU: The worry here is that only Keith Jackson, Jaison Williams and Alvin Brown get minutes, and not many. Against Missouri, the starters averaged 34.4 minutes. But there are just four scholarship players on the bench, and only one (Brown) isn't a freshman. Brown's experience could be key; he scored nine points against UC as a sophomore.

        EDGE: UC

        COACHING

        UC: Bob Huggins has to get the nod if for no other reason than having coached in 12 Shootouts. Though Huggins talks about this being just another good game on the Bearcats' schedule, you'd better believe he does not want to lose a third in a row to the Musketeers, and he's had four full days to prepare for the game.

        XU: Thad Matta has been to postseason play in each of his seven seasons as a full-time assistant or head coach, six at the NCAA Tournament. That's the closest approximation to this big-game pressure. Matta seemed to keep the Musketeers calm this week.

        EDGE: UC

        INTANGIBLES

        UC: You can call it pressure if you'd like. But having lost four of the last five to Xavier isn't sitting well with UC. The Bearcats could come out tight tonight just because of that. It also will be the Bearcats' first game in Cintas Center, so it's a new environment. The home team usually gets the advantage here.

        XU: This is one of the rare times XU isn't a big underdog. And after its recent run of success in this series, there certainly isn't any fear of the Bearcats. The big key here is the new arena, ready for its first taste of Shootout mayhem. How big a help is the super-loud crowd?

        EDGE: XU

        SCORE: UC 67, Xavier 65
       

       



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