Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Outmuscled, outshot, out of streaks

        The Cintas Center has lost a little of its showroom sheen. The Xavier Musketeers took the floor Tuesday night undefeated in their lush new digs, and left it looking like something you'd find at a scratch-and-dent sale.

        Outmuscled, outmanned, outshot and outhustled, the Muskies were mauled by underachieving Massachusetts, 75-64. It was worse than that, but this is a family newspaper.

        “Tonight they came in and they played with a lot more pride than we had,” said Xavier center David West. “They out-toughed us tonight, and there's no excuse for that. It came down to heart. It had nothing to do with basketball.”

        The Minutemen came in 3-9, and departed convinced their record must be a misprint. They beat the Muskies to most of the loose balls and fairly bludgeoned them on the backboards, 43-26. If this had been a heavyweight bout, somebody would have stopped it by the third round.

"Reckless abandon'
        “They took the fight to us,” Xavier coach Skip Prosser conceded.

        On the surface, it might appear that the Muskies were beaten because they allowed too many second shots. Technically, this wasn't true. It was the third and fourth shots that made the difference. If at first the Minutemen did not succeed, they'd try, try again until one of their bricks found the bottom of the net.

        The wondrous West had 28 points and 11 rebounds for Xavier. Prosser's forwards, however, went to the boards as if their ankles were clapped in irons. Lloyd Price fouled out with two rebounds. Kevin Frey played 23 minutes and snared one.

        Because the Muskies out-rebounded 10 of their previous 13 opponents, it is possible to believe Tuesday's tilt an aberration. It is also possible to believe that their record is inflated by soft scheduling.

Complacent Muskies
        Massachusetts' schedule may be too masochistic. The Minutemen have played Connecticut in Hartford, North Carolina in Charlotte, Marquette in Milwaukee and Ohio State in Columbus — and lost them all. Some teams could get discouraged by these experiences. UMass has gotten stronger.

        “We don't have attitudes, so you have an opportunity to turn it around,” said Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint. “Before, we had attitudes.”

        Riding a streak of six straight victories, Xavier's attitude should have been euphoric. The Muskies have climbed to 17th in the latest Ratings Percentage Index readout and were close to graduating from Also Received Votes into the USA Today/ESPN Top 25.

        Yet the attitude most obvious among the Muskies Tuesday was complacency. They scored two field goals in the first 10 minutes, grabbed only five of the first 20 rebounds and were unable to find useful alternatives to forcing the ball in to a surrounded center. Except for West, no Xavier player scored more than seven points or seized more than three rebounds.

        If history is any indicator, the Muskies will not dwell on this debacle. Last year, they lost to LaSalle by 31 points at Cincinnati Gardens, and still managed to win 21 games. No basketball score in January is of lasting significance.

        “What's important now is how we handle tonight,” Prosser said. “Every time you lose a game, you're at a crossroads. It's time to see how we handle it.”

        It's time to see if the Muskies are worthy of their swank new surroundings.



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UMass 75, Xavier 64
- SULLIVAN: Outmuscled, outshot, out of streaks
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