Sunday, March 23, 2003

New coach rebuilds XU from guards up


Musketeers return to NCAA tourney after losing season

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Xavier women's basketball team will see the type of club that coach Kevin McGuff hopes to build on its Evanston campus.

UC Santa Barbara, the Musketeers' opponent today in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, is a tough, physical group.

The Gauchos come in limiting the opposition to 35 percent shooting from the field, out-rebounding them by seven a game, and outscoring them by almost 18 points. UCSB has won seven consecutive Big West Tournament titles.

Not that McGuff is complaining about his first season at Xavier.

The Musketeers enter tonight's game 20-9. Coming off a 12-19 season, XU improved its winning percentage by .307, the largest jump under any of the 55 new Division I coaches. Its RPI is No. 37.

With two freshmen and a sophomore starting, McGuff has rebuilt the Xavier program faster than most people - including himself - might have expected.

"The kids were hungry from the start." McGuff said. "They didn't enjoy last year. They didn't enjoy the losing thing. They were ready to go. They have been great."

The positive attitude started with the coach.

"He knew we had the talent to be a 20-win team, and he kept telling us that," said freshman post player Tara Boothe, who had signed to play for former coach Melanie Balcomb. "We started to believe him."

Balcomb, after seven seasons and 135 victories, left for Vanderbilt. McGuff was hired June 13.

It was too late to make major changes. McGuff had to coach the team he was given.

McGuff, in his first season as a head coach after six years as a Notre Dame assistant, gradually incorporated his philosophy into a team that already had a run-and-gun offensive identity.

While maintaining a 68.2-point-per-game scoring average from last season, the Musketeers under McGuff gave up 9.3 fewer points a game. The rebounding differential went from a minus-3 to a plus-2.

"As we go, I want us to be known as a great team defensively, great on the boards and (a team that) wins with toughness," McGuff said. "It's going to take some time to develop that and get us where we need to be, but I think we came a long way in those areas. We are a much tougher team physically and mentally than we were when we started."

McGuff built his strategy around senior guards Amy Waugh and Reetta Piipari. This NCAA Tournament appearance is their third in four seasons.

They have combined for 2,862, 1,169 assists and 501 3-pointers (40.5 percent from behind the arc).

"We're strong in some areas, we're really strong in the backcourt, so we do a lot with them," McGuff said. "We do get some matchup problems with our post players, so we try to exploit that. I tried to find out how we could exploit other teams by playing to our strengths.

"Hopefully, it can carry us a few more games in the tournament."

Xavier vs. UC Santa Barbara

Tipoff: About 9:30 p.m. today, United Spirit Arena (15,050), Lubbock, Texas.

Record: XU 20-9, Santa Barbara 26-4.

TV: ESPN.

Series: First meeting.

XAVIER

PlayerYr.Ht.PPG
Amy WaughSr.5-619.0
Reetta PiipariSr.5-713.7
Kristy WallnerFr.5-114.7
Tara BootheFr.6-116.0
Alexis HendersonSo.6-07.0
Coach: Kevin McGuff (20-9, first season; same overall).

UC SANTA BARBARA

PlayerYr.Ht.PPG
Lindsay TaylorJr.6-816.1
Kristen MannSo.6-214.6
Jess HansenSr.5-810.6
Mia FisherSo.5-610.6
Brandy RichardsonSo.6-07.0
Coach: Mark French (330-147, 16th season; 428-261, 24th

overall).

STATISTICS

XUUCSB
43.2FG%47.1
41.0Opp. FG%34.7
36.13-pt.%37.4
28.6Opp. 3-pt.%28.3
77.2FT%73.5
68.2PPG74.3
61.3Opp. PPG56.9
+2.0Reb. margin+7.2
-0.7Turn. margin0




NCAA TOURNAMENT
Full coverage at Cincinnati.com

MEN'S TOURNAMENT
Maryland 77, Xavier 64
Underdog Xavier has upset in mind
Daugherty: Bookends on XU's roster
Coaches experts on Terps
Majerus has the big blues
UK, Utah still have ties to '98
Apology ahead for UC's Machock
Gators-Spartans: Things could get rough
Cowboys will test Orangemen
Butler now faces Louisville's press
IU ready to mount a charge
After spurning Spartans' offer, Gators' Roberson must face them

MEN'S TOURNAMENT - SATURDAY'S GAMES
East: OU's Bookout covers for ailing Price
Midwest: Little-known Novak burns Mizzou
South: UConn turns to top guns
West: Hot-shooting Irish burn Illini
NCAA Tournament at a glance
NCAA Tourney notebook
NCAAs: The Skinny
NIT: Providence tops College of Charleston

WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT
New coach rebuilds XU from guards up
UC faces an uphill battle at home
Living legend roams Texas sidelines
Wright happy to be home
Women's tournament at a glance
Lady Vols have no problems at home

REDS / BASEBALL
Reds fans get first look
Graves lets go of bothersome pitch
Blue Jays 4, Reds 1
Harnisch is pleased with performance
Reds Q&A
It's the same old Angels, champs or not
Devil Rays release Vaughn

BENGALS / NFL
Bengals look to turn weakness into strength
Bengals Q&A
Rams bolster line with trade for Saints' Turley

PREP SPORTS
D-I state title: Moeller 73, Brookhaven 65
D-III state title: Reading 50, Sugarcreek Garaway 44
LeBron leads Ohio team to third state title
Ky: No. 1 Mason Co. 86, Lou. Ballard 65
Princeton's Davis joins elite crowd

GOLF
Tiger tames field, leads by five shots
Sorenstam closes in on 1st win of season

HOCKEY
Rangers keep slim hopes alive
Mighty Ducks beat Norfolk in overtime

NBA
Hawks stop O'Neal's shot at victory for Pacers
Hill won't give up despite surgeries

HORSE RACING
New York Hero tames Lion
Rider Cooksey injured in Turfway Park spill

TRISTATE SPOTLITE
Merchant's Harvard finale is memorable
Enquirer Page Two power rankings
Swarm gear up for af2 season
Following in footsteps of defunct Rockers

PLAN YOUR DAY
Sunday's sports on TV, radio

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