Saturday, March 18, 2000

XAVIER NOTEBOOK


Austin too quick for Musketeers

BY PETE HOLTERMANN
Enquirer contributor

        BATON ROUGE, La. — The quick, athletic lineup of Stephen F. Austin caused trouble for Xavier all night Friday, forcing the Musketeers into 24 turnovers in their NCAA Tournament first-round game at Maravich Assembly Center.

        Xavier spent the past week trying to prepare for Stephen F. Austin's athleticism, and spent several practices scrimmaging against a team of male XU students.

        “There's a big difference, though, when it's a team that's been coached and knows what it's doing because they've been doing it all year,” Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb said.

        Xavier's leading scorer, Taru Tuukkanen, was most affected by the Ladyjacks defense.

        Tuukkanen averaged 14.9 points per game on .578 shooting in the regular season, but was 1-of-6 from the field on Friday for two points. It was her lowest output since Cincinnati held her to one point in the Bearcats' 77-71 victory on Dec.5.

        “I'd rather play against bigger posts, but I should know how to play against smaller ones by now,” Tuukkanen said.

        Tuukkanen grabbed seven rebounds in the game to lead Xavier.

Getting defensive
        In the first half, Xavier used a match-up zone defense against Stephen F. Austin, and the Ladyjacks committed 13 turnovers and shot 48.6 percent against that defense.

        However, SFA also out-rebounded Xavier 17-13 in the opening period, and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds.

        “They were killing us on the boards,” Balcomb said. “We weren't checking out and we couldn't jump with them so we decided to go more man in the second half. It worked for a while.”

        In the second half, SFA shot 54.5 percent from the field and turned the ball over only five times.

        “We're good defenders, but sometimes not the greatest against a team that can create for themselves as well as they can,” said Xavier forward Jennifer Phillips, who led the Musketeers with 19 points.

        For the game, Xavier was outrebounded 30-27.

Emotional end
        Following the game, the Musketeers were devastated and thought their season had ended prematurely.

        “After the great season that we had, it's a shame it had to end like this in the first round,” junior Nicole Levandusky said.

        It was particularly emotional for seniors Amy Hughes and Kim Hotz.

        “The season's over. We've got to come to grips with that,” said Hotz, who finished with 10 points in 24 minutes, shooting 4-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from the foul line. She also had two assists.

        Hughes did not play.

        Hotz wasn't ready to think back on her career after the game.

        “Not so much right now, but I'm sure I will be in a couple days.”

Free-throw woes
        Xavier made 18 of 25 free-throw attempts in the game. SFA went to the line three times, all in the first half, and missed them all.

        Phillips, Xavier's second-best free throw shooter at 80 percent, was 5-of-8 from the line. Two of those misses came with 59.9 seconds left in the game.

Tournament game coverage at Cincinnati.com/madness
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