Friday, March 16, 2001

Second wind, season for XU


NCAAs give Muskies chance to get on track

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        KANSAS CITY — They have seemed like strangers, these Musketeers. A patient half-court offense. Minimal full-court pressure. Poor perimeter shooting. After 28 games, Xavier still seems to seek an identity. But with one more victory tonight, these labels await: Warriors. Winners.

        “I think you'll see our best,” senior co-captain Reggie Butler said. “We have no choice but to come out with guns in the air. You'll see a hungry team.”

XAVIER vs. NOTRE DAME
  • When: Approximately 10:20 p.m. today.
  • Where: Kemper Arena (17,484), Kansas City, Mo.
  • Records: XU 21-7, ND 19-9.
  • TV: Ch.12.
  • Radio: WLW-AM (700).
  XAVIER
  Player-Ht-Yr-Avg
  Lloyd Price-6-5-Jr.-9.0
  Kevin Frey-6-8-Jr.-11.6
  David West-6-8-So.-17.8
  Romain Sato-6-4-Fr.-10.8
  Maurice McAfee-6-0-Sr.-9.5
  Coach: Skip Prosser (148-64, seventh season; 165-77 overall)
  NOTRE DAME
  Player-Ht-Yr-Avg
  Harold Swanagan-6-7-Jr.-4.2
  Ryan Humphrey-6-8-Sr.<14.1
  Troy Murphy-6-11-Jr.-22.0
  Matt Carroll-6-6-So.<12.4
  Martin Ingelsby-6-0-Sr.-8.3
  Coach: Mike Brey (19-9, first season; 118-61 overall)
  BY THE NUMBERS
  • 14-3: Notre Dame's lead in this series.
  • 38: NCAA Tournament games Brey has coached (36 as a Duke assistant).
  • 6-12: XU's all-time NCAA tourney record.
        Xavier (21-7) admittedly tightened up in a 4-4 stretch drive, sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. But fortunes can change quickly: Beating Notre Dame (19-9) tonight in Kemper Arena would make this the sixth XU team ever to advance in the NCAAs.

        Xavier promises newfound aggression, and the matchup against a plodding opponent practically demands the up-tempo, ball-hawking attack of Musketeers teams past.

        “We had something to lose our last two games, but now we're playing just to play,” sophomore guard Lionel Chalmers said. “This is our chance to redeem ourselves and show what we possess. We're capable of making a run in this tournament.”

        To make a run, XU must run. Its offense bogged down the last two games as players hesitated.

        “Paralysis by analysis,” coach Skip Prosser said. “You're thinking about playing instead of just playing.”

        The team met Monday to address that subject, then Prosser closed practices to outsiders all week. He said they have responded with their best work.

        “We're moving on,” junior forward Kevin Frey said. “This is like a new season.”

        Xavier is the Midwest Region's 11th seed and Notre Dame its sixth seed. Despite the seeding disparity, it's a pick 'em game in Vegas.

        Much of the reason: numerous similarities.

        Each team leans heavily on a talented, multifaceted center (XU's David West, ND's Troy Murphy). Each has just one player who has played in an NCAA Tournament game. Each has gone three weeks since its last victory.

        “I think we are in similar territory there,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.

        The matchup is simple. Notre Dame has size (a frontline that goes 6-foot-11, 6-8, 6-7 to XU's 6-8, 6-8, 6-5), a two-time All-American (Murphy) and strong shooting (46.3 percent). Xavier has high-flying forwards and better ballhandlers.

        “Xavier has got to take advantage of their quickness,” said Miami coach Charlie Coles, who faced both teams this season. “Notre Dame does not have the athleticism to match them.”

        Notre Dame has been outrebounded by an average of 15.3 in its past three games, losses to Connecticut, Georgetown and Pittsburgh. Murphy (22.0 ppg) averaged 14 points while shooting 34 percent (16-for-46) in that slide, and Notre Dame shot 37 percent overall.

        Each team led its league in defensive field-goal percentage, so the game could be low-scoring. Notre Dame ranks seventh nationally at .389, and XU's .399 mark is its best in 39 seasons.

        Xavier wants to play fast and loose. It wants to play well. It wants to make history.

        “This is what you bounce the ball for when you're a little kid,” Frey said. “We can't wait.”

Online pool and college hoops coverage at Cincinnati.com



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