Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Xavier 96, Siena 88

Sato shakes slump, pours in 33 points

Romain Sato tries to wrestle the ball from Siena's Michael Haddix.
(AP photo)
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By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ALBANY, N.Y. - Xavier coach Thad Matta told his team that Pepsi Arena was a shooters' gym. Apparently, Romain Sato listened.

Sato, mired in a shooting slump, cured his woes in a big way Monday, pouring in 33 points during a tough 96-88 road victory over Siena.

It was Sato's second-highest offensive output of his career. The junior guard scored 34 points last season against George Washington.

"It was great to get him out of his slump," Matta said. "He made the first shot, and the coaches just sighed in relief. Then he hit a 3, and we knew he was back."

The timing was fortuitous, as the Saints gave No.21 Xavier all it wanted in front of 10,671 fans.

The turning point came midway through the second half when the Saints cut Xavier's lead to one point on three separate occasions, only to have the Musketeers (7-2) respond with a bucket each time.

Will Caudle is sandwiched between Siena players.
(AP photo)
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With Xavier leading 66-65 and 11:16 left in the game, Musketeers coach Thad Matta got on his team during a timeout, shouting and pumping his fists.

"I challenged (Xavier players) a little bit from a defensive standpoint," Matta said. "I kind of went at them. I told them I don't care if we ever shoot the ball again, just get some stops."

Sato hit a 3-pointer after the timeout, Xavier got three straight defensive stops, and the Musketeers never led by less than three points the rest of the game.

"(Matta) got on us," said XU guard Lionel Chalmers, an Albany native. "We didn't come out with much fire. He's the coach. That's what he's supposed to do."

With 2:21 left, and the Musketeers leading 86-83, Sato hit another 3-pointer, his sixth of the game.It was Sato's most 3-pointers in one game since he made eight against Rhode Island his freshman season.

"Coach said if I'm open, shoot it," Sato said. "I had confidence going when I made some."

David West drives the baseline.
(AP photo)
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No one was more animated throughout the game than Matta, who jubilantly cheered every Xavier basket from the start. His support was an effort to get his players to recognize that Siena (5-3), an NCAA Tournament team last season, was indeed a threat.

"This is one of those games on the schedule," Matta said. "We weren't looking forward to coming in here. It's a big win going into Christmas 7-2 with the places we've played and the people we've gone against."

Xavier helped itself by converting 28 of 33 foul shots. Senior forward David West made 9 of 9 and scored 21 points to go with 13 rebounds. Sato made 7 of 7 and shot 10-of-20 from the field.

Siena took control early in the game with an 11-0 run that gave the Saints a 19-12 lead midway through the first half. The Musketeers responded with a 9-0 run and eventually pulled ahead late in the first half when Sato hit three 3-pointers. He scored 13 of his points in the first half.

Chalmers, playing in front of about 70 family members and friends, provided a spectacular ending to the half when he stole the ball from Siena's Tommy Mitchell and threw down a one-handed dunk over Mitchell. That gave XU a 50-42 halftime lead.

"It was awesome," said Chalmers' 27-year-old sister, Lakesia. "He used to do that quite often when he played high school ball."

Chalmers scored 16 points but played only 13 second-half minutes due to foul trouble.

The Musketeers had problems stopping Siena's shooters, who made 52 percent of their shots. Michael Haddix led the Saints with 21 points, and Prosper Karangwa made 7 of 17 shots for 17 points.

The 88 points were the most given up by Xavier under Matta, who is in his second season with the Musketeers. Xavier's 96 points were the most scored on the road since the Musketeers had 99 against Rhode Island on Jan.13, 2001.

Matta said the key was not letting Siena take the lead in the second half.

"That was huge," Matta said. "That was the thing that I kept looking at: Don't let them get over the edge on us. That's something we have to get straightened out. At Xavier, we don't trade baskets with people, and that's something we did for 35 minutes."

Chalmers said the Musketeers made the plays that counted most.

"(Siena) wanted to win bad," Chalmers said, "but we wanted it a little more."

E-mail: ddow@enquirer.com


                          fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
R Sato              33 10-20   7-7   2-9   2   3   33
D West              38  6-12   9-9  1-13   6   3   21
A Myles             27   4-8   2-4   7-7   2   2   10
L Chalmers          30  4-10   5-6   1-1   5   4   16
D Finn              34   2-4   1-1   0-0   3   2    6
A Smith              2   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   1    0
D Young             12   1-3   2-2   0-1   1   1    4
K Jackson           12   0-1   1-2   1-2   1   1    1
W Caudle            12   2-2   1-2   1-2   0   2    5
TOTALS             200 29-60 28-33 13-35  20  19   96

Percentages: FG-.483, FT-.848. 3-Point Goals:
10-22, .455 (R Sato 6-12, L Chalmers 3-5, D 
Finn 1-3, D Young 0-2). Team Rebounds: 1. 
Blocked Shots: 3 (D West 2, A Myles). 
Turnovers: 12 (L Chalmers 3, D West 2, A 
Myles 2, D Finn 2, R Sato, W Caudle, K 
Jackson). Steals: 9 (L Chalmers 4, D West 2, 
D Finn 2, A Myles).

SIENA (88)

                          fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
A Andrews           29   4-4   0-0   0-2   1   3   12
M Haddix            29  8-12   5-5   4-5   1   2   21
B Sniezyk           24   3-6   2-3   1-5   2   3    8
T Mitchell          37  5-10   0-1   0-1   4   1   12
P Karangwa          34  7-17   2-2   1-8   7   5   17
J Jackson            3   0-2   0-0   0-0   0   2    0
P Williams           9   2-2   2-2   1-2   0   2    6
A Jordan            18   1-4   2-2   1-2   1   2    5
J Miller            17   3-7   1-3   1-4   2   4    7
TOTALS             200 33-64 14-18  9-29  18  24   88

Percentages: FG-.516, FT-.778. 3-Point Goals:
8-19, .421 (A Andrews 4-4, T Mitchell 2-5, P 
Karangwa 1-6, J Jackson 0-1, A Jordan 1-2, J 
Miller 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots:
1 (M Haddix). Turnovers: 15 (T Mitchell 6, P 
Karangwa 3, M Haddix 2, A Andrews, A Jordan, 
B Sniezyk, J Miller). Steals: 8 (A Andrews 2,
J Miller 2, T Mitchell 2, P Karangwa, M 

XAVIER               50  46   -  96
SIENA                42  46   -  88

Technical fouls: None. A: 10,671.

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