Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Loss strengthens XU's resolve

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In the aftermath of his team's loss Saturday at St.Bonaventure, Thad Matta was asked to recap the 12-game winning streak that had ended.

        “It's been 57 days since we lost,” the Xavier coach said. “But you're only as good as your last game, or your next game.”

        There was great disappointment in the aftermath, but not great change. XU (17-4, 9-1 Atlantic 10) didn't watch any more of the St.Bonaventure film than it had of any other game review, and Tuesday the Musketeers were talking intently about their game Thursday — even though it's against a George Washington team (10-12, 3-8) that's on a seven-game losing skid.

        “We lost a game,” senior guard Alvin Brown said. “But we've just gotta learn from our mistakes and then come out with a lot of energy Thursday. There's nothing we can do now except try to come out and get better and make sure it doesn't happen again.”

        The manner in which XU lost, surrendering a seven-point lead in the final three minutes and losing by one, had many Musketeers either seething or sulking Saturday. There were complaints about the officiating, including the eight offensive fouls called against XU.

        But senior forward Kevin Frey said the loss could be helpful.

        “We learned a great lesson: You just can't turn it on and off like a faucet,” he said. “We can't just rely on our past record and things we've done before, going into a gym expecting to win, just because we had the longest winning streak in the nation. We'd stopped working and been taking things for granted.”

        Frey was upset that XU waited until it trailed by 16 points at Richmond in the game prior and until it trailed the Bonnies by 13 before beginning to rally.

        “Guys are coming out to give us their best shot every night,” he said. “We're circled on everybody's calendar. Until we realize we're getting everybody's best shot and we need to be on top of our game every night ...” we need to get to that point.”

        Despite the emotional nature of Saturday's game, Matta was calm immediately afterward. Associate head coach Sean Miller said Matta's even-keeled approach filters down to the players, helping them digest each game easier.

        “The greatest attribute of our team this season has been our consistency and attitude in our daily effort,” Miller said. “If Romain (Sato) would have made the (potential game-winning) basket, right now we'd be talking about, "How many in a row can you win?'

        “Well, it doesn't go in. But for us to panic would be wrong. Our consistency has been our badge. This time of year, the next game becomes more important than the last game, whether you won or lost.”


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