Saturday, February 27, 1999

XU faces tough road to title


Muskies have to overcome 'Senior' hoopla

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The shoe is on the other foot. Dayton came to Xavier on Wednesday night for an emotional Senior Night with a lot at stake for the Musketeers — and got trounced by 28.

        Today, XU plays at George Washington (noon, ESPN) with the Atlantic 10 West Division title on the line for both teams as the Colonials say good-bye to seniors Shawnta Rogers and Yegor Mescheriakov.

XU at GEO. WASHINGTON<
• When: Noon today
• Where: Charles E. Smith Center (5,000), Washington, D.C.
• Records: Xavier 20-8, 12-3 A-10; George Washington 18-7, 12-3
• TV: ESPN
• Radio: WLW-AM (700)
BY THE NUMBERS
• 166: James Posey's free throw attempts, most on XU's team and in Atlantic 10
• 139: Yegor Mescheriakov's free-throw attempts, second-most in A-10
• 113: Gary Lumpkin's free throw attempts, second-most on XU's team
        “That's part of it,” XU coach Skip Prosser said. “When you close on the road, there's a good chance it's going to happen. (But) the game's going to be decided between the lines ... The guys know what's at stake.”

        XU and GW are tied in league play at 12-3. The winner today gets a top seed in the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday in Philadelphia. Xavier can still be the top seed overall if it wins today and Temple, the top team from the East Division, loses Sunday at Massachusetts.

        Xavier has beaten George Washington five of six times, including three straight — twice at the Gardens and once in last year's conference tournament final. XU won at the Smith Center 62-61 in January 1997; last year's game at GW went to overtime with the Colonials winning 78-73.

        GW has become Xavier's biggest A-10 rival. Last year the teams shared the A-10 West title with Dayton. In 1997, GW was predicted to win the division but the Musketeers ended up with the championship.

        “GW will always be the team we had a tough time with, but hopefully we'll be able to say we came out on top,” Xavier senior Gary Lumpkin said.

        The environment today will test the Musketeers.

        Rogers and Mescheriakov have had huge impacts on the GW program and are popular players. The Colonials will try to send them off on a winning note.

        “It's the kind of atmosphere that we like to play in,” XU senior Lenny Brown said. “We've just got to come out and play hard and match their intensity. I like all teams that play hard. I'd rather play a hard team than a team that doesn't think they can win. I just re spect them as a program.”

        Said Lumpkin: “We like that type of emotion. I think we'll find out a lot about our team. I wish we could've played the game (Friday).”

        “Both teams have competitive players, so every time we face each other, it's going to be a war,” Rogers said. “I'm looking forward to it.”

        The key to stopping the Co lonials, of course, is slowing Rogers, the 5-foot-4 point guard and probable conference player of the year.

        He has averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 assists in eight career games against the Musketeers, in which he is 3-5. He has shot 37.1 percent from the field, 31.6 percent from three-point range and 66.1 percent from the foul line in those games. Rogers has scored more than 20 points three times against XU, including a high of 25 on Jan. 14, 1998 in a victory at GW.

        In a 20-point loss at Xavier last month, Rogers scored just 11 points on 3-of-17 shooting.

        “We have to do it by committee,” Prosser said. “It's got to be a team defense. Usually against the great ones, you have to play defense before they get the ball, but he always has the ball so you can't do that.”

        Lumpkin's job: Make Rogers work hard at both ends of the court. Attack him off the dribble when Rogers is on defense; don't sit back and let him do what he wants when he has the ball.

        XU also has to keep an eye on Mescheriakov, who was just 3-of-11 shooting for eight points in the previous game against XU. He scored 28 points Wednesday in a 10-point victory over Virginia Tech.

        “We guarded really well the first time,” Prosser said. “We have to guard well again. What we didn't do well the first time was rebound. They had 20 offensive rebounds. The key is to keep them off the boards.

        “They're bigger and stronger and more experienced than we are, but therein lies the game.” headWHAT'S AT STAKE?

        • Xavier wins today and Temple beats Massachusetts on Sunday: XU is the top seed in the West for the conference tournament and plays at 7 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Dayton and St. Bonaventure or Massachusetts.

        • Xavier wins today and Temple loses Sunday: XU is the top seed in the West, the top seed in the tourney and plays at noon Thursday against the winner of Dayton and St. Bonaventure or Massachusetts.

        • Xavier loses today: It is the No.2 seed in the West and plays the winner of Duquesne and Massachusetts or St. Bonaventure at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

        St. Bonaventure and UMass are tied for third place in the A-10 East. The Bonnies play host to St. Joseph's today, and UMass plays host to Temple Sunday.



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