Saturday, January 20, 2001

A-10 leader St. Joseph's visits XU


Muskies don't want another home loss

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It was sold to them as a vision in a recruiting pitch, artists' renderings on glossy paper. They came to Xavier to play big games in a $46 million building. Today is their first.

        The Musketeers can give Cintas Center teeth only by winning there, and Atlantic 10 leader St. Joseph's (14-3, 5-0 A-10) arrives today as the toughest test to date. XU (13-3, 4-1), which can gain a share of first place by winning, lost its previous home game.

ST. JOSEPH'S at XU
  • When: Noon today.
  • Where: Cintas Center (10,250).
  • Records: XU 13-3 (4-1 A-10), St.Joe's 14-3 (5-0).
  • TV: Fox Sports Ohio.
  • Radio: WKRC-AM (550).
  ST. JOSEPH'S
  Player-Ht.-Yr.-PPG
  Frank Wilkins-6-9-Sr.-6.4
  Bill Phillips-6-10-Jr.-11.7
  Damian Reid-6-9-Jr.-10.1
  Marvin O'Connor-6-4-Jr.-20.7
  Jameer Nelson-6-0-Fr.-12.5
  Coach: Phil Martelli (95-84, sixth season; same overall)
  XAVIER
  Lloyd Price-6-5-Jr.-9.3
  Kevin Frey-6-8-Jr.-10.8
  David West-6-8-So.-17.4
  Romain Sato-6-4-Fr.>11.9
  Maurice McAfee-6-0-Sr.-8.8
  Coach: Skip Prosser (140-60, seventh season; 157-73 overall)
  BY THE NUMBERS
  • 17.3: Assists per game by St.Joe's.
  • 3: Hawks' average margin of defeat this season.
        “We're trying not to dwell on the last game here (a Jan.9 loss to Massachusetts),” XU junior forward Lloyd Price said. “We're just thinking about this one — playing for first place. This is a players' game, the kind everyone gets up for.”

        There's plenty at stake. Winning would further XU's credentials for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, plus provide needed confidence for a Feb.7 trip to St.Joe's.

        A loss would drop XU two games back in the standings. And if UMass (3-1 A-10) beats Duquesne tonight, the Musketeers would be in fourth place in the league.

        “I think it's important for the whole league (that XU win),” XU coach Skip Prosser said. “St. Joe's is getting ready to run away and hide.”

        In a league that placed just three teams in the NCAA Tournament each of the past two years, XU can't afford to feel comfortable. Its No.42 RPI ranking is the third-highest among A-10 teams, trailing Temple (26) and St.Joe's (38).

        XU doesn't want to have to explain two home losses to the tournament selection committee, which frowns upon such things.

        XU hasn't lost back-to-back home games since falling to Massachusetts and Virginia Tech — which were both ranked — five seasons ago. That was its only two-game home losing streak in the past nine years. It has suffered only two such slides in 19 years.

        “More than those numbers, the guys just want to defend their home turf and make up for the last (home) game,” Prosser said.

        He called out the fans on his weekly radio show, saying they needed to be louder to disrupt opponents.

        “Ours is a team, like a lot of teams, where you need every edge,” Prosser said. “We need every edge in this game.”

        St.Joe's has won eight straight games, and its three losses have come by a total of nine points. Sports Illustrated has sent a reporter to Cincinnati to do a story on the Hawks, who won by 22 points Tuesday at Temple.

        “We're not full of ourselves,” St.Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. “The guys have been getting pats on the back all week, but they've kept focused.”

        St.Joe's is shooting 50.2 percent, which ranks ninth in the nation, and is on pace to become the first A-10 team in 12 seasons to shoot better 50 percent for the season.

        XU has won eight of its past nine games but continues to seek offensive consis tency.

        “We're still building to another level,” Price said. “Every aspect, we can get better at.”



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