Wednesday, February 07, 2001

St. Joseph's looks to derail No. 24 Xavier

Musketeers look for 8th straight road win

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PHILADELPHIA — Xavier held a players-only meeting in the preseason to talk about team unity. The upperclassmen spoke about planning group activities conducive to chemistry.

  • When: 8 p.m. today.
  • Where: Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse (3,200), Philadelphia.
  • Records: XU 17-3 (8-1 A-10), St.Joe's 17-4 (7-1).
  • Radio: WLW-AM (700).
  Lloyd Price-6-5-Jr.-9.1
  Kevin Frey-6-8-Jr.-12.0
  David West-6-8-So.-18.4
  Romain Sato-6-4-Fr.-11.0
  Maurice McAfee-6-0-Sr.-9.0
  Coach: Skip Prosser (144-60, seventh season; 161-73 overall)
  Damian Reid-6-9-Jr.-10.1
  Frank Wilkins-6-9-Sr.-6.1
  Bill Phillips-6-10-Jr.-11.9
  Marvin O'Connor-6-4-Jr.-20.1
  Jameer Nelson-6-0-Fr.-12.1
  Coach: Phil Martelli (98-75, sixth season; same overall)
  • 14: Double-doubles this season for West, fourth-most in the country.
  • 49.2: The Hawks' field-goal percentage, tops in A-10.
 • 40.0: XU's defensive field-goal percentage, tops in the A-10
        Most have been informal: movies, dance clubs, video-game contests. But the Musketeers insist they've become more close-knit and that 17 victories have been a byproduct.

        “Guys trust each other,” said co-captain Reggie Butler, a fifth-year senior. “I have faith in my teammates on and off the court. That translates into the games.”

        It seems to help in hostile surroundings, which the 24th-ranked Musketeers (17-3, 8-1 Atlantic 10) should find tonight at St. Joseph's (17-4, 7-1). The Hawks are 7-0 this season in Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.

        XU has won seven consecutive games away from home, which is the fourth-longest streak in the nation.

        “It gives you confidence knowing you've won tough games on the road,” co-captain Maurice McAfee said. “It helps that this team sticks together, more so this year than in the past.

        “You don't have to be all buddy-buddy to be successful. But any time you have a positive relationship between individuals off the court, it has to carry over on the floor.”

        Butler compares the chemistry to that of teams during his first two seasons at XU, 1996-97 and '97-98. Both were NCAA Tournament teams.

        The Musketeers' pursuit of the school record for consecutive victories away from home — nine, set in the 1987-88 season — gets steeper on Hawk Hill. The St.Joe's gym (capacity 3,200) is the A-10's smallest venue, but when it's full, it's loud.

  Longest current road winning streaks in the nation (including neutral-site games):
  • Stanford: 11
  • North Carolina: 10
  • Cal-Irvine: 8
  • Xavier: 7
        “You feed off the enthusiasm and have a lot of energy,” St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. “You get to have 3,200 of your closest friends there. You have a huge advantage in enthusiasm and noise.”

        The setup today is similar to 1997. Then, XU was ranked 17th and St.Joe's was hot but unranked.

        The Hawks led by 23 at halftime and rolled to a 14-point upset, finishing the season ranked 12th and in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.

        “We understand what we'll be going into,” XU coach Skip Prosser said. “It'll be a hornet's nest.”

        St.Joe's has won 11 of its last 12 games, the only defeat an 86-73 decision Jan.20 at XU. Are the Hawks Top 25 caliber?

        “Damn right they are,” said Temple coach John Chaney, whose team lost to St.Joe's by 22 points at home.

        Today's game again is a matchup of the teams with the A-10's top shooting percentage (St.Joe's, at .492) and the best defensive field-goal percentage (XU, at .400). Last month, XU held St.Joe's to 39 percent shooting.

        For XU, 27th in the RPI, St.Joe's (41st) represents the biggest point opportunity remaining on its schedule. Of course, the same goes in reverse.

        “I'm happy for Xavier that they're ranked,” Martelli said. “It'll give our fans something else to yell at them for.”



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