Sunday, February 14, 1999

Xavier must contend with Temple zone




BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Temple's matchup zone defense is almost always referred to with reverence.

        While college basketball coaches liberally borrow concepts from each other, Temple's John Chaney stands alone with his philosophy.

TEMPLE at XAVIER
• When: 1:41 p.m. today
• Where: Cincinnati Gardens (10,100)
• Records: Temple, 16-7, 10-1 A-10; Xavier 17-7, 9-2
• TV: ABC
• Radio: WLW-AM (700)
• Tickets: Sold out
BY THE NUMBERS
• 5-0: Temple's record on Valentine's Day since John Chaney became coach in 1982-83
• 0: Days XU has been able to practice in the Cincinnati Gardens since Tuesday night's game against Duquesne
• .314: Gary Lumpkin's shooting percentage in five games against Temple (16-of-51)
• .365: Lenny Brown's shooting percentage in five games against Temple (23-of-63)
        Xavier assistant coach Mark Schmidt, who prepared the scouting report on the Owls, is grateful to have had four days to get ready for today's nationally televised game against Temple at the Cincinnati Gardens (1:41 p.m., ABC).

        “You need time,” he said.

        According to Schmidt, here's what makes Temple unique:

        In a normal zone defense, players are assigned an area. If no opponent is in that area, they wait until someone gets there.

        In Temple's zone, players leave an area to match up with an opponent. The Owls are more aggressive than teams that run typical zones. They're always on a man, and they'll try to trap opponents. Basically, they use man-to-man defensive principles in a zone.

        Temple recruits players to fit its defense. Chaney gets big guys that make it difficult for opponents to score inside. The Owls mostly force teams to have to score from the perimeter.

        Six of the seven teams to beat Temple this season hit 11 or more three-pointers; Indiana hit nine. Xavier averages seven. “Very few teams play the zones as effectively as they do,” Schmidt said. “Defense, at Temple, is like what offense was to the Lakers back in Magic (Johnson)'s day. They put all their stock in their defense.

        “Chaney's been so successful throughout the years because they play something that no one's seen before. I remember the first year we attacked it, it was a joke. The more you play against it, the more comfortable you become.”

        Schmidt said it is impossible to teach a “scout team” to simulate Temple's defense, so Xavier just works against regular zones to prepare.

        The Owls, traditionally one of the top defensive teams in the country, have held 14 opponents to less than 40 percent shooting and are 12-2 in those games. They only allow 58.7 points a game; XU averages 76.5.

        This is a big game for the Musketeers, who start the day tied with George Washington atop the Atlantic 10 West Division at 9-2. The Colonials play at Dayton today (3 p.m., ESPN2).

        Some keys for Xavier:

        • Take care of the ball. XU had just five turnovers last year in Philadelphia and won 79-73.

        • Shoot a high percentage, especially from three-point range. It's a big game for guards Gary Lumpkin, Lenny Brown and Maurice McAfee and forward James Posey.

        • Go after offensive rebounds aggressively.

        • Patience and poise. XU can't rush shots or take bad shots.

        • Try to get down court as quickly as possible before Temple can set up defensively. The more the Musketeers can run, the better for them.

        “I don't think you can give up on taking the ball to the basket,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said of facing Temple. “Most teams take it too far when they try to put the ball on the floor. If you take one hard dribble into a gap and force that defense to collapse, and then if other players will move to open areas and be ready to shoot when it gets there, I think you can be effective with short pull-up jump shots.”

        In Xavier's favor is the fact that the Musketeers have won two of the past three meetings with Temple, so the seniors have no reason to be intimidated or overwhelmed.

        As for Temple, it takes a special commitment and experience to properly apply Chaney's teachings.

        “To play the matchup zone, it takes maybe your freshman year to get the basics and then every year you add little details to your personal position,” Temple junior Pepe Sanchez said. “From what I see, it's a very hard way to play against because we force them to outside shots and we don't make a lot of fouls.”        



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