Wednesday, March 17, 1999

XU faces lesson in fundamentals from Princeton

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Xavier faces a unique challenge tonight. Standing between the Musketeers and a trip to New York City — site of the National Invitation Tournament semifinals — are the Princeton Tigers, noted for being one of the most disciplined teams in college basketball.

  • When: 7:30 tonight
  • Where: Cincinnati Gardens (10,100)
  • Records: Princeton 22-7, Xavier 23-10
  • Next: Winner plays Butler-Clemson winner Tuesday in New York.
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: WLW-AM (700)
  • Tickets: $18, $15, $11, $5 for XU students
        Princeton is 22-7 this season with victories over four NCAA Tournament teams: Alabama-Birmingham, North Carolina-Charlotte, Penn and Texas. It is 73-13 over the past three years under coach Bill Carmody, who took over for longtime coach Pete Carril.

        The Tigers have knocked Georgetown and North Carolina State out of the NIT already. Xavier coach Skip Prosser called Herb Sendek at N.C. State on Tuesday, and the former Miami University coach told Prosser: “Skip, there's no easy solution.”

        The winner of tonight's 7:30 game (ESPN) will play next Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden against the winner of Butler and either Clemson or Rutgers.

        To get past their quarterfinal foe, the Musketeers (23-10) will need to be patient, stay alert and do their best to pressure Princeton into as much of an uptempo game as possible.

        Princeton is the No.1 defensive team in the nation, allowing only 52.1 points a game; Xavier averages 76.8.

        “I think perhaps the most underrated part of their game is their defense,” Prosser said. “They really guard you well.

        They're very physical. You end up taking bad shots, and they give you very few second shots.”

        Their offense is based on movement, screens and back-door cuts for layups. If an opponent relaxes for a second, it's typically two points for the Tigers.

        It is a tough team to prepare for in one day, much like Xavier's conference foe Temple.

        “People talk about their system, which is certainly part of the story,” Prosser said. “But they have good players, as well. Brian Earl (14.9 ppg) could play for anybody.

        “We really have to understand that it is not going to be an 87-76 game like (against Wake Forest). Everybody tries to speed them up; they make you look bad. We're going to have to value possession of the basketball. But you can't play scared. We have to play the way we play.”

        For the first time in the program's history, the Tigers have won 20 games four straight years.

        Princeton is a team that:

        • Beat Florida State, Texas and North Carolina-Charlotte on consecutive nights to win the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii

        • Rallied from a 27-point second-half deficit to defeat Penn on Feb. 9 — the fourth-best comeback in NCAA history

        • Is outrebounding its opponents, the first time a Princeton team has done that in 31 years

        • Features the Ivy League Player of the Year (Earl, the Tigers' career three-point shooting leader) and Rookie of the Year (6-foot-10 freshman Chris Young, who also will pitch for the school's baseball team)

        Carmody, a Princeton assistant from 1982-96, said Princeton's program doesn't fit players into specific roles in which they only perform certain tasks on the court.

        “The concept is that everyone handles the ball, everyone can pass, everyone can dribble,” he said. “We just try to get good players you can teach. When you have really great players, this offense is great. When you have good players, it's really good.

        “It's different, that's all. I wouldn't use the word special. It's what we do. It's more fun coaching for me.”

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- XU faces lesson in fundamentals from Princeton