Will real XU stand up?
No. 14 Purdue is major test

Saturday, December 5, 1998

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Within five days, the Xavier basketball team showed its best and worst sides.

In a 13-point loss to San Francisco a week ago, the Musketeers shot poorly (33.3 percent) and showed little emotion or fight. In an eight-point, come-from-behind victory over Miami on Wednesday night, XU showed intensity and enthusiasm and executed on offense when in trouble.

So, which team shows up tonight when No. 23 Xavier (5-2) faces No. 14 Purdue (6-1) at the Crown?

PURDUE at XAVIER
  • When: 7 p.m. today
  • Where: The Crown (16,400).
  • Records: Purdue 6-1; Xavier 5-2
  • TV: ESPN2
  • Radio: WLW-AM (700)
  • Tickets: $21, $15
    BY THE NUMBERS
  • 9-18: Xavier's record at the Crown
  • 7-1: Purdue's lead in the series with XU
  • 0: Purdue opponents who have shot 50 percent from the field
  • 19:10: Time left when Gary Lumpkin fouled out last year against Purdue.
  • Early season inconsistency is not uncommon, especially among teams relying on newcomers.

    Xavier has been spoiled the past couple years, knowing what it could expect from guys like T.J. Johnson and Torraye Braggs. A bad first half, and Braggs was still going to be sent out for the second half. Inevitably he would produce.

    But this is a different kind of team. Coach Skip Prosser said he is going to play guys who rebound and play defense, guys he can count on. A bad first half could mean a long night on the bench.

    That's why, coming off his eight-point, 14-rebound effort against Miami, freshman Kevin Frey said: "You've got to go out there and show you can do it again."

    That's been the challenge. For example:

    • Junior forward Desmond Walker had 15 points and 14 rebounds against Morgan State, but has 16 points and 11 rebounds in four games since.

    • Sophomore point guard Maurice McAfee had 20 points and rescued Xavier in its season opener at Butler. He has averaged 5.0 points in the past six games and not scored more than nine.

    Now it's Frey's turn.

    "There's more of the unknown, but that's even been true so far this year of our veteran players," Prosser said. "You'd like to always know what you're going to get, but in coaching sometimes you can't."

    Perhaps the most consistent player has been freshman Lloyd Price. He has scored between nine and 15 points every game and come out aggressively, no matter the opponent.

    "I try to be consistent in that if I can't score, I'll make that up in rebounds," Price said. "If my rebounding isn't going well, I try to score or have assists.

    "I try to bring something to the table that will make my stats be consistent every night. I don't want to have a one-dimension game."

    Even the veterans have had ups and downs.

    Senior point guard Gary Lumpkin averaged eight points over the first three games and 14.5 points in the past four. Lenny Brown had 23 points against Morgan State and five the next game against Pittsburgh. James Posey has been steadiest, with six games in double-figure scoring and five with double-figure rebounding. All three have career-low shooting percentages.

    Brown will not point to the younger players' inconsistency. "I'm sure they feel the same way about me," he said. "It's not like I'm turning heads with my performance."

    Then he finds a positive.

    "It's tougher on other teams because they don't know who's capable of having that big night. It's really hard to key on one guy." That would make things even tonight. Xavier won't be able to focus on one Boilermaker, either.

    Purdue has played 10 guys in all seven games, and has 12 players averaging five minutes or more a game; Xavier has nine.

    Prosser calls this a "typical Purdue team -- versatile, strong defensively, very efficient offensively."

    There's athletic center Greg McQuay; Jaraan Cornell, who lit up XU for a then-career-high 28 last season; and Brian Cardinal, a Goodwill Games teammate of James Posey.

    That's just the beginning. "I think our guys realize how good Purdue is," Prosser said.

    Said Frey: "I'm eager for all of us as a team to test how good we are, and also for myself."

    SEASON IN STORIES