Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Xavier expects to face Louisville's best

Loss in opener will have Cardinals more inspired

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Xavier assistant coach Jeff Battle watched videotape of Louisville's season opener and saw the Cardinals play like two different teams.

        The Cards dominated Virginia Commonwealth in the first half Friday night and led 49-31 at intermission. Then VCU rallied for a 79-74 victory in the first game in its new arena.

(all times EST)
  1: Grambling State vs. Georgia Tech, 10 p.m.
  2: Washington vs. Alaska-Anchorage, midnight

  3: Xavier vs. Louisville, 9:30 p.m.
  4: Kansas vs. Georgia, midnight (ESPN)

  5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 4 p.m.
  6: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 6 p.m.
  7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 9:30 p.m.
  8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, midnight (ESPN)

  9: 7th and 8th-place game, 4 p.m.
  10: 4th and 6th-place game, 6 p.m.
  11: 3rd and 5th-place game, 9 p.m.
  12: Championship game, midnight. ESPN

        As the Musketeers get ready to face Louisville in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Battle has no doubts which version of the Cardinals XU will face.

        “They're going to be coming out for blood when they play us, because they let that game slip away,” Battle said Tuesday before XU's practice in Sullivan Arena. “We're going to see the best Louisville team.”

        Some statistics from that first Louisville game concern the Musketeers.

        For starters, the Cardinals had 23 offensive rebounds, including eight from Dion Edward, a 1995 Woodward High School graduate who considered signing with Cincinnati and Xavier coming out of Westark (Ark.) Community College.

        Edward, a 6-foot-9 senior, had 12 points and 14 rebounds against VCU for his second career double-double. He poses a matchup problem for Xavier, which starts 6-8 freshman David West at center.

        The other big worry is se nior forward Tony Williams, who connected on seven 3-point field goals and had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Louisville. Aaron Turner will start out guarding Williams.

        “He can roam all over the floor,” Battle said. “Williams is their most consistent player. He makes big shots. He's been through the wars. He's versatile.”

        Louisville typically has athletic teams, and this edition is no exception. The added bonus: Coach Denny Crum can go nine players deep and has a

        veteran group that includes three senior starters and one junior. Louisville is picked by most preseason publications to finish third in Conference USA's American Division, behind Cincinnati and DePaul.

        The Cardinals' program is one of the NCAA's elite. Crum is in his 29th year at the school and one of three active coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

        “When you read the media guide, it's coach emeritus-type stuff,” XU's Skip Prosser said. “He could not win a game the next four years and still be averaging (close to) 20 wins a year. That's incredible.

        “It's weird 'til the game starts, then it's our guys against their guys.”

        Though the Cardinals are athletic and like to run, Xavier will not shy away from its fullcourt pressure. Battle said a halfcourt game would create problems inside for the Musketeers.

        Xavier especially would like to pressure freshman point guard Reece Gaines, who started the first game and had nine turnovers and zero points.

        “We're going to do some things differently in the press to try to keep them a little bit off balance, but we want to be aggressive, we want to be in attack mode,” Battle said. “Our guys have confidence. We don't want to take that away. We want to play our game and then adjust accordingly from that.

        “Our concern is rebounding. They really make a living on second shots. If they play ping-pong on the backboard, we're in trouble.”

        Xavier and Louisville have not played each other since 1993. The Cardinals rallied from five points down with just more than three minutes left to win that game 76-73 at Louisville. “They called time out and diagrammed some plays, and bang, bang, they hit two straight threes and we lose the game,” Prosser said. “It was a classic. He's a great coach.”

        The Cardinals hold a 25-15 series advantage, but XU leads 15-6 in games outside of Louisville.

        Prosser said he would not mind resuming the series, saying it makes sense with the schools 100 miles apart.

        “They're a signature program,” Prosser said. “If you want to test yourself against the best, they're certainly one of the best.”


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