Saturday, November 20, 1999

Upset still haunts Prosser


Xavier won't overlook its opening foe

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Southern. Utah. State. Skip Prosser can't shake the memory.

        He was a Xavier assistant coach in 1989-90. The Musketeers were coming off their fourth consecutive NCAA appearance and opening their season against the mighty Thunderbirds.

        “Everybody was like, "Why are you playing them?'” Prosser said.

        Final score: Southern Utah State 97, Xavier 90.

AT A GLANCE
  • When: 4:07 p.m. today
  • Where: Cincinnati Gardens (10,100)
  • Records: Maryland-Eastern Shore 10-17 (last season), Xavier 25-11
  • TV: Channel 64
  • Radio: WKRC-AM (550)
  • Tickets: $16, $13, $9
  BY THE NUMBERS
  • 0: Times Xavier and Maryland-Eastern Shore have met
  • 1: Season of XU basketball left in the Cincinnati Gardens
  • 41-2: XU's record at the Gardens the past three years
        A 5-foot-8 guard named Kevin Lee lit up XU for 32 points and six assists.

        In the Cincinnati Gardens.

        “Every time we play a team, you think of that,” Prosser said. “I have to do the best I can to make sure it doesn't happen again.”

        The subject comes up because the Musketeers open their regular season at home at 4:07 p.m. against Maryland-Eastern Shore.

        The Fighting Hawks are coming off a 10-17 season. They are ranked 257th in the nation by the Sporting News and were picked to finish seventh in the lower-level Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. They lost an exhibition game last week to the D.C. Explorers (94-78).

        This is the lowest-rated team on XU's schedule and the kind of game players can look past.

        But the Musketeers individually and collectively have plenty of reasons not to. The obvi ous, of course, is that they are coming off an NIT appearance and yearn to get back to the NCAA Tournament. There is no room for slip-ups.

        Then there is fifth-year senior Darnell Williams, playing his first college game since March 12, 1998; point guard Maurice McAfee, getting his first start after two years as a backup; sophomore Lloyd Price, eager to live up to his star potential; sophomore Alvin Brown, expected to see substantial minutes as a top reserve.

        “After sitting out a year (with a knee injury), I just look at every game like it's the last now,” Williams said. “I don't care who you're playing, it's a game. You're putting on the uniform. You should be ready. We better be. They don't want me to start cursing at them at halftime.”

        Maryland-Eastern Shore comes in with two potential all-league players in seniors Demetric Reese and Kevin Wallace. It is a quick, perimeter-oriented team that plays aggressively on defense.

        Xavier assistant coach Mark Gaffney, who scouted the Hawks, said the Musketeers are likely to face changing defenses all day, from full-court presses to halfcourt traps, from zones to man-to-man.

        “It will definitely challenge our players to recognize difference defenses and how we're going to attack them,” Gaffney said. “Hopefully they'll miss a lot of shots and we'll push the ball and score so we don't have to face any of that stuff.”

        Maryland-Eastern Shore won three nonconference games last season, including Niagara and James Madison. The Hawks, hampered by injuries throughout 1998-99, are considered by some publications a sleeper team in their conference.

        Xavier is No.40 in the recently released ESPN The Magazine rankings. The Musketeers have won nine straight season openers and 11 of their past 12. Prosser's teams are 6-0, including one year at Loyola College in Baltimore, in first games.

        “It's going to set a tone one way or another,” said Prosser, beginning his sixth season as XU's head coach. “I just challenged them mentally. It doesn't matter who you play or where you play, it's all about how you play, and how we have to play is hard and smart.”

        SPECIAL: COLLEGE BASKETBALL PREVIEW



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