Thursday, January 31, 2002

Sato foils Duquesne's strategy

Muskie drains 7 3-pointers to bolster outside game

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Duquesne couldn't match up with Xavier's front line, so it packed in its zone defense Wednesday to try to discourage the Musketeers from scoring inside.

Kevin Frey dunks the ball in the first half.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        It worked. But the Dukes still lost by 14.

        Romain Sato's seven 3-pointers led an outside attack that paced XU to a 79-65 victory over the visiting Dukes.

        “You pick your poison: You let Sato get 3s or you let (David) West dunk on you,” Duquesne coach Danny Nee said. “We committed to try to keep the ball from West.”

        Sato scored 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Those seven 3s were the second-highest total in school history; Sato has the record with eight.

        XU (16-3) improved to 8-0 in Atlantic 10 play, its best league start ever, and Nee called the Musketeers the best team in the A-10. They extended their winning streak to 11 games, third-longest in the nation behind Cincinnati (20) and Utah (12).

        This matches 11-game runs in the 1993-94 and '94-95 seasons as the team's best since a 12-game streak in the '89-90 season.

        “All our focus is directed on one thing: win the conference, get to the (NCAA) Tournament, and make some noise in the tournament,” XU senior Kevin Frey said.

        Frey totaled 13 points and nine rebounds, becoming the 39th member of XU's 1,000-point club. He currently has 1,004 points.

        XU got nice balance Wednesday with four double-figure scorers. It made 10-of-22 3-pointers (45.5 percent). But Sato was clearly the Dukes-killer, making a 3-pointer on the game's first possession and never cooling off.

        “That really helps our team,” Frey said of Sato's shooting. “It gives us an inside-out (balance). You can't really pack it down low. If you play zone, Romain will beat you out there.”

        Nee said he realized early that his Dukes (5-14, 0-8 A-10) would not have a chance to win, in part because of the West-Sato tandem.

        “They make for a nasty combo,” he said. “(Playing XU) is like fighting (Mike) Tyson; you grab his shorts and hold on. You see it coming, but there's nothing you can do to stop it.”

        XU built an 18-9 lead just 8:18 into the game. Later, a 9-0 run in 82 seconds — on two Sato 3-pointers and a Jaison Williams 3 — stretched the lead to 33-15.

Kevin Frey and Alvin Brown battle for a rebound against Duquesne's Brad Midgley.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        “Some games I shoot good, other games I don't,” Sato said. “I just kept running the baseline and running (around) double screens from Dave (West) and Kev.”

        Nee switched from a traditional zone to a box-and-one, with one defender exclusively chasing Sato. It didn't work, as Sato cut hard on his screens and kept getting open.

        “He's come a million miles in how to cut with a purpose since the beginning of the season,” XU coach Thad Matta said of Sato.

        Sato has averaged 19.6 points and shot 54.5 percent during A-10 play, leading XU in scoring in six of the eight games. Wednesday, Sato also hounded DU leading scorer Wayne Smith into 6-of-16 shooting.

        West totaled 11 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks, but he appeared unnerved by some early rough fouls by the Dukes. West shot just 3-of-9 and made just 5-of-11 foul shots.

        “Teams are going to (hammer him) from time to time,” Matta said. “He's gotta continue to learn how to deal with that.”


        If XU wins Saturday at Richmond, it will match the second-longest streak in school history. The record is 15 consecutive victories in '87-88. ... The victory Wednesday made this the first XU team on record to go unbeaten in the month of January.


        The last time Duquesne played a game on XU's campus, Joe Sunderman — currently the Musketeers' play-by-play announcer — had a career game. He scored a career-high 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting, adding 15 rebounds and five assists in a 98-86 victory on March 2, 1976 at Schmidt Fieldhouse.


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