Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Musketeers' defense does the talking

Tight-lipped XU stalls St. Peter's in preseason NIT

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Xavier's David West shoots over Saint Peter's Amir Ali.
(Mike Simons photo)
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Xavier was 1-0 and into the second round of the Preseason NIT after five minutes of Monday night's overwhelming win against St.Peter's.

The Musketeers led by 14, and the Peacocks didn't have a chance.

Xavier dominated on both ends of the floor and never let up, winning 87-48 in front of 9,214 fans at Cintas Center.

The Musketeers' one-sided win was much needed, especially after coach Thad Matta banned media from talking to players last week. The cause: Matta said his team lacked focus in a close exhibition game with the One World All-Stars.

"The big emphasis for us coming off (the exhibition) game was going to be defense," Matta said. "We had to get better than last Tuesday night. I thought the guys did a good job of having more awareness of what was going on around them."

Xavier coach Thad Matta shouts instructions.
(Mike Simons photo)
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Xavier guard Romain Sato is certainly aware of how well he's shooting. Sato scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers.

On one possession, point guard Lionel Chalmers passed up a wide-open 3-point attempt and passed to Sato.

"I had made two in a row and Lionel started looking for me," Sato said. "Then he was so open, and he passed it to me, and I said, `Lionel, shoot that.'"

But Chalmers, in his second season at point guard, is past the point of looking for his own shots.

Xavier's Lionel Chalmers drives the ball against Saint Peter's Keydren Clark.
(Mike Simons photo)
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"You've got to go to the guy who's hot," he said.

Sato also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, including four offensive boards. He and the team responded to Matta's media ban by holding St.Peter's to 17 first-half points.

"I didn't want (Xavier players) going into this game with questions of, `How are you going to get fired up to play this game,'"Matta said.

That wasn't a problem, Sato said.

"The last exhibition game wasn't the Xavier way, and we knew that," Sato said.

The Musketeers will play Stanford, a 61-57 winner over Boston University, on Wednesday in Palo Alto, Calif. The winner of that game advances to the PNIT semifinals in New York next week.

The only other time Xavier played in the PNIT's second round - 1988 - it lost at Missouri, 83-71.

"(Wednesday's) game is just one game," Matta said. "We've got 27 more guaranteed. One thing I know about coaching is they're all pretty damn important."

Xavier's Romain Sato takes it to the hole over Saint Peter's Drew Dudley.
(Mike Simons photo)
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Xavier senior David West, who scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds, said no one on the team is looking ahead to New York.

"It's a two-game tournament right now," West said.

The Musketeers shot 50 percent from the floor, outrebounded St.Peter's 44-34 and committed just seven turnovers to 18 assists. Xavier's point guards, Chalmers and Dedrick Finn, each had five assists.

The Musketeers forced 19 turnovers and had 13 steals, three each by West and Chalmers.

"That's our defensive intensity," West said. "We're going to bring it."

Keydren Clark led the Peacocks with 17 points.

TO THE LINE: Xavier improved its free-throw shooting, going 11-of-16 from the line, including Finn's 4-of-4 performance. The Musketeers made just 16 of 33 free throws last week against the One World All-Stars.

MOVING UP: West moved into a tie for 12th place on Xavier's all-time scoring list. The senior forward has 1,507 career points, tying him with Gary Lumpkin.

CENTER PRODUCTION: Xavier's center rotation of Anthony Myles and Will Caudle combined for 12 points and four rebounds. Myles made 4 of 6 shots, while Caudle made 2 of 4.

"The best thing Anthony did," Matta said, "was he played well off of David (West). And he's gotten himself into a lot better shape."



Team rebounds: 4

Team rebounds: 3.

St. Peter's1731-48
Attendance-9,214. 3-point goals-St. Peter's 7-20 (Bozovic 0-1, Clark 4-10, Robinson 0-1, Hinnant 0-1, Devonish 3-7); XU 6-19 (Young 2-6, Chalmers 1-2, Sato 3-8, Smith 0-1, Finn 0-1,Caldwell 0-1). Technical fouls-None. Officials-Thibeodeaux, Benedict, Petty.

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