Saturday, November 22, 2003

Road trip will test Muskies' mettle



By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

One of the quirks of Xavier University's schedule this season, and there are a few, is that the Musketeers go for more than a month without playing in Cintas Center.

After opening the season with three straight tournament wins there, Xavier doesn't come back to Cintas Center until Dec. 20 against Louisiana-Lafayette. Between now and then, the Musketeers play road games at Ball State, Miami University and Mississippi State and a neutral-site game against Indiana in Indianapolis.

That is part of the reason why Xavier coach Thad Matta held off praising his team, especially the younger players, too much after Xavier won the Dell Black Coaches Association Classic title Monday. The upcoming road tests will be played in a bit more uncomfortable settings.

"This is going to help this team mature," Matta said. "Hopefully, getting three games under our belt (at Cintas Center) will give us a little bit of confidence in what we're doing when we go on the road. I think this will be good because we'll find out a lot about ourselves."

Three of the four games are bus trips; Mississippi State is the only flying trip.

In winning the BCA Classic, Xavier relied heavily on its bench production, including three freshmen playing in their first college games. Now, with first-game jitters out of the way, they're about to see what life is like on the road.

"It's definitely going to be a new experience," said freshman forward Brandon Cole , who witnessed road games last season as a redshirt freshman but has yet to play in one. "We have to be mentally tough. That's quite a stretch, especially this early in the season, and it's quite a test. But I'm sure we're going to answer the challenges."

On the road again

Xavier's next four games are all away from home:

Nov. 25 at Ball State
Nov. 29 vs. Indiana at Indianapolis
Dec. 9 at Miami University
Dec. 13 at Mississippi State
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E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




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