XU can't shoot straight
Percentage worst in 34 years

Tuesday, December 15, 1998

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Xavier's problems are many. You name it, the Musketeers (5-4) are not doing it well. Defense, rebounding, turnovers, and most glaringly, scoring.

You can't win without points. You can't come from behind if you can't hit a jump shot.

If the season ended today, this would be:

  • The worst shooting Xavier team in 34 years (.428 percent)

  • The worst three-point shooting team since the three-pointer became part of the game in 1986-87 (27.6 percent)

  • The lowest-scoring XU team in 14 years (74.4 ppg)

Last season, Xavier ranked 14th in the nation in scoring (83.5 ppg), eighth in scoring margin (plus-14.7) and 14th in field goal percentage (.484). After nine games a year ago, XU was shooting .501.

The competition has something to do with this. XU has played Pittsburgh, Miami and Purdue, three teams ranked in the Top 25 at some point this fall, and Toledo, which is undefeated.

That said, there are three main reasons for the dramatic dropoff.

1. No consistent inside scoring

Xavier has lacked a productive true post-up player. Freshman Kevin Frey, who has started the past three games at center, and starting power forward James Posey, both 6-foot-8, may be small forwards in disguise. In his six starts, 6-10 sophomore Reggie Butler averaged 4.2 points. The other true center, 6-10 junior Obi Harris, has played a total of nine minutes. He broke his right index finger Nov. 1 and has been slow to get back. Power forward Desmond Walker had 15 points against Morgan State and has averaged 4.8 points in the other eight games.

And Xavier gets few put-backs. For example, the Musketeers had only two rebound baskets against Toledo and three against Purdue (that doesn't include free throws).

2. Few transition baskets

XU's full-court press is not creating turnovers, and in turn the Musketeers do not get many uncontested layups and dunks. Since returning from Puerto Rico, the Musketeers have become more of a halfcourt team, limiting the opportunities for “cheap baskets.” “And that's not us,” coach Skip Prosser said. “We have to get back to being an attacking team offensively.”

The Musketeers will work this week on improving their full-court, trapping defense, the trademark of this team the past few years.

3. Perimeter shots not falling

Xavier has only shot less than 45 percent as a team once in 22 years. That was 1995-96, when this year's seniors were freshmen. Those Musketeers shot 43.3 percent and finished 13-15. This year's squad is shooting worse.

Senior Lenny Brown is shooting better from three-point range (.393) than inside the arc (.382). Take away Brown's stats, and the rest of the Musketeers are a combined 29-of-129 on three-point tries (22.5 percent).

Senior Gary Lumpkin is at .178 (8-of-45), freshman Lloyd Price .211 (4-of-19), Posey .259 (7-of-27) and sophomore Maurice McAfee .292 (7-of-24).

“Some of it is shot selection,” Prosser said. “I think we have good shooters getting fair shots. I think if you have good shooters getting great shots, you have a better chance of getting a better shooting percentage.

“. . . (But) even the open looks we're getting, we're not getting a lot of those to go down.”

XU is off this week for final exams. It plays host to Canisius on Saturday night.

TURNER UPDATE: Freshman Aaron Turner will take the ACT standardized exam within a week after finals end Thursday in an attempt to become eligible, academic adviser Sister Rose Ann Fleming said. XU does not expect to get notice of Turner's score for 2-3 weeks after he takes the test.

1998 stories