Friday, March 16, 2001

Xavier Notebook

Defense must improve fast

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        KANSAS CITY — True, David West didn't score in the final 17:50 of Xavier's Atlantic 10 Tournament loss last week to George Washington. But that wasn't why the Musketeers lost.

        It merely masked a rare off night for Xavier's defense. And that's the factor coaches have concentrated on entering tonight's NCAA Tournament meeting with Notre Dame.

        “If you're in a tournament, you've got to guard and rebound,” XU assistant coach Dino Gaudio said.

        Xavier allowed a season-high 83 points against GW, and the Musketeers were outrebounded 43-36. That number was more galling.

        “Box-outs were sloppy or non-existent,” coach Skip Prosser said.

        There was a series of four GW possessions in the second half in which the Musketeers failed to box out and allowed the Colonials second-chance points. When XU reviewed film Monday, the coaches showed 20 clips from the game — all of poor Musketeer defensive efforts.

        As for West: The coaches insist XU could have won if other players had knocked down shots. Maurice McAfee and Lloyd Price each missed 3-point attempts in the final four minutes that could have given XU the lead.

        “We're telling the guys we can't be one-dimensional,” Gaudio said. “It's like in football, if you're running the fullback up the middle (repeatedly), pretty soon when they shut that down, other guys have to make plays. I think they're capable.”

        The fact that West's dry spell mirrored a similar drought at the end of the previous game is what has everyone concerned.

        “We've got to try harder to get him the ball,” McAfee said.

        LESSONS TO LEARN: The biggest lesson for XU from its 76-64 NIT loss last year at Notre Dame? Throw the ball inside. XU couldn't penetrate the Irish's zone defense and attempted a season-high 36 3-point shots, making 12.

        “We didn't do a great job of going inside-out,” Prosser said. “If we take 36 3s (tonight), we lose.”

        The Irish own the advantage outside. They shoot 39 percent from 3-point range, and XU's 30.9-percent 3-point shooting is its worst in the 15 seasons the shot has existed.

        Don't fall behind, either, because the Irish will have the ball in the hands of great free throw shooters: Matt Carroll (.855), Martin Ingelsby (.795), David Graves (.758) and Troy Murphy (.758).

        MR. DURABILITY: McAfee will play in his 126th game tonight, tying the school record set by Tyrone Hill (1986-90). Should Xavier win, McAfee would set a new record of 127 games Sunday.

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