Saturday, February 6, 1999

XU visits La Salle's new home

Have won 13 in row vs. Explorers

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PHILADELPHIA — It was a bit of an unusual day for Xavier.

        The Musketeers, who typically have a three-hour practice, were on the court for less than two hours Friday.

• When: 4 p.m. today
• Where: Tom Gola Arena (4,000), Philadelphia
• Records: Xavier 16-6, 8-1 A-10; LaSalle 8-12, 4-6
• TV: Fox Sports Ohio
• Radio: WKRC-AM (550)
• 22.1: LaSalle guard Donnie Carr's field-goal attempts per game as a freshman
17.4: Carr's field-goal attempts per game as a sophomore
15.5: Carr's field-goal attempts per game as a junior
16.1: XU all-time scoring leader Byron Larkin's field goal attempts per game during his career
        Senior James Posey and freshman Aaron Turner both sprained their left ankles Thursday night against St. Joseph's and did not practice; they are expected to be ready for today's game at La Salle (4 p.m.). Sophomore Maurice McAfee practiced but was not feeling well.

        Mostly, Xavier took it easy.

        “It's that time of year,” coach Skip Prosser said.

        He wants his players as fresh and healthy as possible for today. Xavier has defeated LaSalle 13 consecutive times, but this is the first game between the teams in the 4,000-seat Tom Gola Arena, where the Explorers are 7-2 this season.

        This is the first season since the 1950s that LaSalle has played its home games on campus.

        The past two seasons, the Explorers' home court was the Spectrum. Coach Speedy Morris said it was “an ordeal” to play there.

        For a 7:30 p.m. game, LaSalle would leave campus at 2 p.m., then check into a hotel closer to the arena for pregame meal. Morris said the team could not risk leaving at 4:30 or 5 p.m. for fear of getting stuck in Philadelphia highway traffic and not making it to the game on time.

        Students, he said, had to make a 41/2-hour commitment to bus to and from the Spectrum.

        “It was never home,” Morris said. “They treated us well; it was just not a good fit. It was too far.”

        It was also too big. LaSalle averaged close to 2,000 fans a game at the 18,060-seat arena. Last year's game vs. Xavier drew a crowd of 1,224.

        “You put the same amount of people who came to the Spectrum in here, and it's a whole different atmosphere,” Prosser said after practice in Gola Arena. “Let's say there are 2,500 people here (Saturday); 2,500 people and this place will be rocking and crowded. Twenty-five hundred people in the Spectrum and it doesn't look like there's enough to start a good fight.”

        In October 1967, La Salle announced plans for a $2.5 million athletic facilities building. The Hayman Center opened in 1972. Capacity for the basketball arena was less than 1,000. The men's basketball team stopped playing there in 1987.

        After a $6.3 million renovation, LaSalle returned to the building last Feb. 21 and defeated Virginia Tech 74-64. Its only home losses this season are to Pennsylvania (62-58) and George Washington (72-70).

        It hasn't hurt that this is Morris' best team since the Explorers joined the Atlantic 10 Conference in 1995-96. LaSalle finished 5-11 in league games last season; it is 4-6 in the A-10 this year.

        “I think our guys know it's a whole different team from LaSalle's standpoint,” Prosser said.

        The Explorers dress only nine players, and play mostly five. The two top reserves usually see eight or nine minutes. There is no depth.

        Xavier is expected to try to counter LaSalle's perimeter scoring by starting freshman Lloyd Price at small forward, moving Posey to power forward and freshman Kevin Frey to center.

        That would mean 6-foot-10 Obi Harris would not start at center for the first time since Dec. 9, which was also the last time Price did start.

        Prosser is looking to shore up the defense on La Salle's shooters. Also, Harris has been largely unproductive. Since Jan. 1, he has totaled 14 points in 10 games.

        Sophomore center Reggie Butler, who started the first six games, may get some more playing time soon. He has not appeared in the past three games nor has he played more than four minutes in a game since Jan. 3.

        “His performance in practice would warrant it,” Prosser said.

        Neither Prosser nor Morris has mentioned anything to their players about Xavier's 13-game reign over the Explorers. The past four Xavier victories have been by an average of 24.5 points.

        “We don't talk about it,” Morris said. “My philosophy has always been to look ahead.

        “And, eventually we're going to beat them.”


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