Tuesday, March 23, 1999

NIT semis motivate tired Xavier

Clemson a lot like Bearcats

The Cincinnati Enquirer

[nit coaches]
NIT coaches are California's Ben Braun, Xavier's Skip Prosser, Oregon's Ernie Kent and Clemson's Larry Shyatt.
(AP photo)

| ZOOM |
        NEW YORK — The Xavier Musketeers have never played this many games and this deep into March. Coach Skip Prosser can tell by looking at his players that it's been a long season.

        Preparation for National Invitation Tournament games — including tonight's semifinal against Clemson — have been different. Three-hour practices are no longer the norm. The Musketeers have cut back to mostly two hours, including stretching, watching film and working on opponents' plays.

        “We've gone over everything we can go over,” Prosser said. “I still have the energy and enthusiasm to go three hours, but that would probably be a mistake. Right now, the most important thing is fresh legs and fresh minds.

  • When: About 9 p.m. today
  • Where: Madison Square Garden
  • Records: Xavier 24-10, Clemson 19-14
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: WLW-AM (700)
  • 7: Clemson opponents who have shot 50 percent or better
  • 0-7: Clemson's record in those games
  .339: Combined shooting percentage of Clemson's three NIT opponents (Georgia .237, Rutgers .389, Butler .391)
        “Coach (Don) Shula with the (Miami) Dolphins always said, "Better fresh than ready,' and I've not always gone with that. We're trying to be fresh and ready. If we're going to err right now, we're going to err on the side of fresh.”

        Prosser has changed Xavier's practice routine a little, but there's no getting around the fact the team has been practicing for five months.

        “We have heard everything, it seems like, I don't know how many times,” senior Gary Lumpkin said. “We already know what he's going to say, how he's going to say it. We just go out there and play now.”

        Prosser said advancing to New York has provided some new motivation for seniors Lumpkin, Lenny Brown and James Posey, all of whom would like to continue their playing careers.

        “They know what New York is,” Prosser said. “New York is the center of professional basketball in the world. That's the NBA headquarters, that's the international basketball headquarters.

        “There are only two places basketball's being played this week: New York and Tampa (area), so they'll be a plethora of observers and evaluators, and they're cognizant of that. And they want to go out on a high note.”

        Indeed, out of 310 Division I teams, only eight are still playing.

        Should the Musketeers win tonight, they will have a chance to play Thursday night for the school's first basketball national championship of any kind since Xavier won the 1958 NIT.

        But getting past Clemson will be no easy task. The Tigers were ranked as high as No. 14 in the country after Christmas before losing eight of their next nine games.

        Other coaches have told Prosser that Clemson is “an NCAA team” that has had some bad luck.

        The Tigers provide two major challenges.

        One is senior guard Terrell McIntyre, the leading scorer in an Atlantic Coast Conference. Prosser calls him “one of the better players in America” and says “when McIntyre gets the ball in the open floor, he's like a highlight tape.”

        When Xavier tried to shut down Wake Forest guard Robert O'Kelley, he merely went off for 36 points. The Musketeers will need to do better against McIntyre.

        The other concern is the inside game. Physically, Prosser compares the Tigers to Temple and Cincinnati.

        About Clemson's frontline:

        • 6-10 senior center Tom Wideman: Coming off best game with 17 points and 17 rebounds — both career highs — against Butler. In three NIT games, he's averaging 9.7 points and 11 rebounds and shooting 71.4 percent from the field.

        • 6-8 senior forward Harold Jamison: Has four consecutive double-doubles and has averaged 15 rebounds a game during that stretch. Scored a career-high 26 points in quarterfinal victory over Butler; he was 11-of-14 from the field with seven dunks.

        • 7-1 sophomore reserve center Adam Allenspach: Has averaged 9.2 points and 5.0 rebounds and shot 64 percent from the field over the last five games.

        “They're big, strong guys,” Prosser said. “The difference between them and Wake (Forest) is Wake's big guys were freshmen and sophomores, whereas Wideman and Jamison are seniors. They're throwing two battle-scared ACC veteran seniors at us and we've got a couple of freshmen in there in Aaron Turner) and Kevin (Frey). That's a big concern.

        “If we don't rebound, nothing else we do — no matter how long or short we practice — is not going to make any difference.”

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