Monday, March 19, 2001

Xavier plays defense, too

Muskies force Tigers to shoot 41 percent

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As impressive as Xavier's offense was Sunday in its 77-62 NCAA Tournament victory over Clemson, the difference was defense.

        The Musketeers, who are ranked nationally in several offensive categories, held Clemson to 41 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded the Tigers 34-25.

        And when XU took control of the game in the first half, it held Clemson to four points in a stretch of just under seven minutes.

        XU has held its last three opponents — George Washington, Louisville and Clemson — to 56, 52 and 62 points, far below its season average of 65.4 points allowed per game.

        “By running the entire time, we got them off the offensive boards,” Musketeers coach Melanie Balcomb said. “They only sent one or two people on the rebound. They didn't get a lot of second shots because they were worried about our break.”

        The victory Sunday also was Balcomb's 122nd at Xavier, tying her with Mark Ehlen, who now coaches at Toledo, for the most in program history.

        Ehlen was 122-130 from 1986-95.

        Balcomb, in her sixth season at Xavier, is 122-58. Overall, in eight seasons at Ashland and Xavier, Balcomb is 150-84.

        “I'm happy for the kids now. I want them to enjoy every minute of this,” Balcomb said. “I'll reflect later.”

        STREAKING: Xavier's NCAA Tournament victory Sunday was its 20th in a row but broke a run of seven consecutive games in which it had scored 80 or more points.

        The Musketeers have won 33 in a row when scoring 80-plus points.

        Xavier led 76-48 with 6:21 remaining but scored only one point the rest of the way.

        DRAWING A CROWD: Sunday's attendance of 6,548 pushed the Xavier women's basketball team to 40,098 for 15 home games, an average of 2,673 a game.

        The two-date total for the tournament regional at XU was 13,350.

        The Xavier women finished 15-0 in their first season at Cintas Center with the two tournament victories.

        “We've had a lot of support lately,” said Jennifer Phillips, one of five seniors.

        GETTING PHYSICAL: One of the big boosts off the bench Sunday for XU was the play of 6-foot-3 freshman forward Kate Kreager.

        Sunday's appearance was the 32nd for Kreager, most of any Musketeer reserve. She responded with four rebounds, three of them on offense, and two points in 14 minutes.

        “Kate loves physical play,” Balcomb said. “I thought this would be a good game for her. She would match up well with them. She's also a very good offensive rebounder. She moves her feet so well. That's what I told her to do when she went in, and that's what she did. She gave us great minutes today.”

        TURNOVERS: In advancing to their first Sweet 16, Xavier made 32 turnovers, a season-high and tied for eighth most in an NCAA Tournament game.

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