Sunday, January 17, 1999

XU vs. GW a hot rivalry




BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two of the hottest teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference square off today, with the winner becoming the front-runner in the West Division.

        Xavier (12-4, 4-0 A-10), on a seven-game winning streak, plays host to George Washington (9-4, 3-0), winner of five in a row, at the Cincinnati Gardens.

GEORGE WASHINGTON at XU
• When: 2 p.m. today
• Where: Cincinnati Gardens (10,100)
• Records: George Washington 9-4, 3-0 A-10; Xavier 12-4, 4-0 A-10.
• TV: Fox Sports Ohio
• Radio: WLW-AM (700)
BY THE NUMBERS
• 3: Atlantic 10 Conference schools where Tom Penders has coached (Fordham, Rhode Island, GW)
• 47.3: Free throw attempts XU averaged in three games against GW last season
• 26.9: Free throw attempts XU averaged in its other 27 games
        This is the Musketeers' fourth season in the Atlantic 10, and the Colonials have emerged as perhaps their greatest rival.

        Since 1995-96, when the Musketeers joined the league, XU and GW have won 10 games more than any other team in the A-10 West. They shared the division title with Dayton last season, XU finished first and GW second in 1997, and GW tied Virginia Tech for the title in '96.

        The Colonials have not had a losing conference record since 1989-90.

        “When we came into the league, they were one of the signature programs, and that really hasn't changed,” Xavier coach Skip Prosser said.

        The groundwork was laid for this series while Xavier was still a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

        George Washington came to the Cincinnati Gardens in 1994 and won in double-overtime 93-92. The next season, Prosser's first as Xavier's head coach, the Musketeers won in Washington, D.C., 88-75.

        “We've had nothing but tooth-and-nail battles ever since,” Prosser said.

        Xavier holds a 4-3 series edge since entering the league — the games have been decided by an average of 7.6 points — but has won four of the past five.

        In three games last year, the teams combined for 181 personal fouls and 259 free throw attempts, with 13 players fouling out.

        This year's George Washington squad is a little different. For starters, 7-foot-1 center Alexander Koul is gone. So is coach Mike Jarvis, who left for St. John's. He was replaced by Tom Penders, who is known for uptempo offense but has the Colonials winning with defense.

        GW is quicker without Koul, and playing faster, yet still strong inside.

        “It was the first time in my career I didn't have to enter the Indy 500 in a beat-up Chevy,” said Penders, who previously coached at Texas, Rhode Island, Fordham, Columbia and Tufts. “Mike Jarvis left me good kids, coachable kids and kids that knew how to win. What I wanted to do is take what Mike was doing well and continue to do that and add my touches to it.”

        Last season, GW committed nine more turnovers than it forced. This season, GW already has forced 99 more turnovers than it has committed.

        The Colonials are shooting just 40.6 percent as a team but lead the Atlantic 10 in scoring (80.5 ppg; XU is second at 76.1), offensive rebounding (41 per game) and steals (10.69 a game).

        “How are we winning? Well, obviously our defense is pretty darned good,” Penders said. “We're an aggressive defense, a sniping defense, a disrupting defensive team. I've had some great defensive teams over the years, and this team is really playing great defense.”

        Today's showdown pits Xavier's three seniors — Gary Lumpkin, Lenny Brown and James Posey — against GW's triple-threat of Shawnta Rogers, Mike King and Yegor Mescheriakov. Those three combined for 73 of the Colonials' 81 points in a victory Thursday night over Dayton.

        The 5-foot-4 Rogers scored a career-high 36 against the Flyers and leads the league in scoring (21 ppg), assists (7.46) and steals (3.62). He averaged 19.7 points against XU last season.

        “Unbelievable,” Lumpkin said of Thursday night's game, which he watched on TV. “Somebody that size who can get his shot off like that, that's pretty impressive.”

        George Washington has not lost since Dec. 23 (against Siena).

        The Colonials got a boost that night when power forward Antxon Iturbe returned from a broken bone in his foot suffered Nov. 11. He has started the past five games.



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