Wednesday, December 08, 1999

Xavier faces Miami's Millett magic


XU has only 3 wins in 17 tries in Oxford

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After Miami upset Xavier in Oxford two years ago, when the Musketeers were ranked No. 7, RedHawks coach Charlie Coles received phone calls from other schools around the country asking how his team did it.

        Don't worry about mistakes, he told them.

XU at MIAMI
  • When: 7 tonight
  • Where: Millett Hall (9,200)
  • Records: Xavier 4-1, Miami 1-3
  • TV: Channel 12
  • Radio: WKRC-AM (550), WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3)
  • Tickets: Plenty available, $14, $11, $8 students/children
  BY THE NUMBERS
  • 14-3: Miami's record against Xavier in Millett Hall
  • 69-8: Miami's record in Millett over the last six years
  • 15: Consecutive Miami victories over nonconference opponents in Millett
        “We had 19 turnovers, we just didn't worry about them, and I think that's what you've got to do when you play Xavier,” Coles said. “You've got to just keep playing, because they're gonna make you turn the ball over. That's what they do best. When you turn them over, you can't get passive.”

        Xavier and Miami meet for the 87th time tonight (7 p.m., Channel 12), with the series tied at 43. It's always a big game for both schools and their fans.

        The Musketeers (4-1) are favored by 11/2 points, but that doesn't mean much. The RedHawks (1-3) have lost to XU only three times in 17 games at Millett Hall, and this is their home opener.

        Xavier's last trip to Miami was a disaster. The Musketeers shot 38.5 percent from the field in the first half, trailed by 16 points at halftime and went on to lose 80-72.

        “We have to show what our maturity is,” XU senior Darnell Williams said. “It's a tough, hostile environment. We just have to go up there and execute our game plan. It's a good test. They always play well up there.”

        XU won last year, when Miami was ranked No. 22, at the Cincinnati Gardens. The marquee names from that game are gone: Szczerbiak, Posey, Frierson, Brown, Lumpkin, Estick.

        Among the stars for XU, though, were Lloyd Price (13 points) and Kevin Frey (eight points, 14 rebounds), both sophomores now. They concern Coles. “Same Xavier,” Coles said. “Great athletes. They're very aggressive. I think they've got a chance to have a very good team. But, hey, we're looking forward to the game. We just need to build some confidence and play together. If we can just do that, we'll be very, very happy.”

        While both teams are talented on the perimeter, the game might be won by the bigger guys.

        Xavier is young with freshman David West and sophomores Aaron Turner and Kevin Frey off the bench but still might have an edge on the RedHawks, who are getting almost no offensive production from their post players. Freshman forward Bryan Reed and senior center Refiloe Lethunya combine to average 6.8 points and 8.0 rebounds; Turner and West average 18.6 points and 16 rebounds.

        To make matters worse for Miami, junior Mike Ensminger (Oak Hills High) has been suffering from a chronic back problem and probably won't play. He did not make the trip to Wisconsin-Green Bay last weekend and did not practice Monday or Tuesday.

        “I think our inside guys have to play well,” Coles said. “I think Xavier's inside attack is underrated. They're a little bit stronger inside than us physically, so we've got to make sure we don't let them take advantage of us. Our outside guys know what they've got to do, but our inside guys have to make sure that they're playing hard.”

        Prosser, of course, has a different take. He has concerns about Miami having so many fourth- and fifth-year players.

        He thinks the RedHawks play better defense this season because they know they don't have Wally Szczerbiak and Damon Frierson to simply outscore opponents.

        “It's going to be a difficult game,” Prosser said. “What has happened the last two times up there was we played so poorly on offense and they got great shots in transition off of our bad shots. So we need to play much better on offense.

        “I think their record is deceiving. There aren't many teams in America that are going to win at Tennessee this year. There aren't many teams in America that are going to win at Temple this year. So you could almost throw those two out.”

        Coles believes already having played two top-25 teams will help his team be ready for the Musketeers.

        “It doesn't give us any kind of edge, but it helped,” Coles said. “We've seen that kind of athleticism last Wednesday at Tennessee. Xavier's definitely got some prime-time athletes.”

        Prosser said XU has not played with poise in Oxford. He is eager to see how his players deal with adversity tonight — for instance, during a Miami run.

        He doesn't expect XU's full-court pressure to bother the RedHawks much.

        “We haven't pressed them successfully since Charlie's been the head coach,” Prosser said. “Even last year here we couldn't press them. We're going to have to grind it out possession by possession.

        “I'm not going to say we're not going to try, but the press is not going to win the game for us. The press really set a tone against East Tennessee State; that's not going to happen against Miami.”

       



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