Saturday, March 15, 2003

Daugherty: Chaney makes Xavier look bad


Old warrior's still got game

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DAYTON - The ancient coach did it again. He is 71 years old and he has won about a million games the way he won that game against Xavier Friday night. Even if you are a Musketeers fan, you have to admire John Chaney, who is still schooling people after all this time.

You knew it was Chaney's game, played just the way he drew it up, when David West had taken exactly one shot in the first 23 minutes. Everybody's all-American couldn't get a sniff. Chaney had his Temple players in that funky match-up zone he uses, and they were in the middle, close to the basket, like sardines in a can.

Every few minutes, Chaney would flex his arms like he was carrying a barrel of bourbon. "Stay tight," he would scream, in that perma-rasp of his. And the players would drop back, a little closer to the basket, a little deeper into David West's comfort zone.

The result was a 63-57 Owls win. It snapped Xavier's winning streak at 16, denied the Muskies a conference title and likely will affect either their seeding Sunday or where they are sent to play. Maybe both.

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Temple coach John Chaney.
(AP file photo)
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An Atlantic 10 title likely meant a No. 3 seed in a friendly place like Indianapolis. A semifinal loss makes Indy unlikely. The seed is up in the air, pending the rest of the weekend's games.

"We didn't play worth a damn," was XU coach Thad Matta's take. "We were up three at half. I was almost embarrassed by that."

It's a little easier to rationalize a loss like this to Temple. What was curious was Xavier's lethargy, West's in particular. A day after Matta bragged on West's passion, West played like his girlfriend just dumped him. In the first half, he was content to set picks and direct traffic. West is the hub on the wheel. Without him, the Muskies weaved all over the road.

"We didn't let the known beat us" was how Temple's David Hawkins put it. What Temple did was squeeze the passing lanes and stay tight when Chaney flexed his arms.

A great thing about college basketball in March is, it's as predictable as the future. After a while, you pick winners by suspending thought and heading for the palm reader. Six top seeds have lost in their conference tournaments already: Xavier, Arizona, Marquette, Wisconsin, Gonzaga and Southern Illinois.

Six days earlier, Xavier smashed Temple by 31. The Muskies scored 96 against the same funky defense. They couldn't have scored 96 Friday if they'd played a doubleheader.

The Muskies didn't shoot well, so they let the rest of their game fall off.

You could suggest a loss after 16 wins in a row amounts to a useful reveille. You could say Xavier will not see another zone defense quite like Chaney's. You could make a very good case the Muskies won't shoot 44 percent (8-for-18, 2-for-12 without West) from the free throw line again, or commit 20 turnovers.

"We'll be ready" next week, Lionel Chalmers said. "Count on it. We will not make the same mistakes again."

Meantime, John Chaney will play tonight for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Heaven help the team that draws Temple, if the Owls win. Chaney has been making really good teams look really bad for a long time.

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E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




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Daugherty: Chaney makes Xavier look bad
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