BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Xavier point guard Gary Lumpkin kind of rolled his eyes.
Freshman Lloyd Price tries to muscle the ball away from AIA's Ronnie Grandison.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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"Man, it is so different," he said.
Lumpkin is used to seeing Lenny Brown on the wing. This is the eighth season the two will be teammates. Their on-court partnership dates back to grade school.
Wednesday night against Athletes in Action, Brown was out nursing a foot injury. A piece of Lumpkin was missing.
"I'm always looking to the side," he said.
So, he did what Xavier needs him to do: Lumpkin hit big shots and helped carry the Musketeers to a 93-90 exhibition victory.
Lumpkin was 6-of-7 after going 0-for-5 in last week's exhibition game. He finished with a team-high 21 points.
Never before had Lumpkin hit six three-pointers in a game at Xavier; only once last season (vs. DePaul) did he even have four. "I felt a rhythm from the beginning," Lumpkin said. "The first shot I put up I knew it was going in. It just happens. You can't think about it."
Said Brown: "He was a spark tonight. He was emotional at halftime. He didn't feel that we were playing hard enough and he let everybody know how he felt."
As one of the three seniors playing, this is what Lumpkin has to do. Be a leader. Play well. Command respect.
"Gary and I have been through a million ups and downs . . . and there's nobody you root for more than Gary Lumpkin," coach Skip Prosser said. "He works mightily at his game, and it's nice when he has success."
It was the final rehearsal for the 17th-ranked Musketeers, who open the season Tuesday at Butler in Indianapolis.
And it was a good test. Athletes in Action (5-6) tied the game at 71 with 8:02 left, and after a 12-2 Xavier run, pulled within 85-84 with 1:47 to go.
The Musketeers held on by making 8-of-12 free throws.
"There were some bright spots, but there were a lot of glitches as well," Prosser said.
XU had two freshmen on the floor in the final minute: Lloyd Price and Kevin Frey. Frey, who had missed two free throws with 1:15 left, hit two with 44.9 seconds remaining and finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
"I was just thankful I got a chance," Frey said. ". . . Coach kind of told me he trusted me by leaving me in the game when the game was on the line."
aurice McAfee came off the bench for 11 points, five assists and just one turnover. He and Lumpkin combined for 32 points, nine three-pointers and eight assists.
Sophomore center Reggie Butler, the only healthy true post player right now, looked much better than he did last week with nine points, two rebounds and two blocks.
With junior center Obi Harris out (broken finger), XU lacks depth at center when Butler gets in foul trouble. Junior Desmond Walker picked up two fouls early and was little help in the post. The job sometimes fell to Posey, who was outsized.
Price, getting his first start, did not score in the first half but had six rebounds, four steals and three assists. He finished with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and five steals.
Xavier was hurt by too many first-half turnovers (14), and just like Hungary last week, Athletes in Action beat the Musketeers down the court for easy baskets numerous times.
Also, for two days in practice, Prosser stressed that if left alone, the AIA players would have a field day from three-point range. They were 6-of-9 from three-point range in the first half and finished 11-of-21.
"We have some inexperienced guys," Prosser said. "And there's a reason they call it growing pains, because sometimes it's painful."
Brown is expected to return to practice this weekend and should be ready for the Butler game. Harris remains sidelined with a cast on his right hand and will miss the regular-season opener. Harris may get his cast off late next week.
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