Friday, December 19, 2003

Cage, Cole suffer ankle sprains

Reserves questionable for Saturday

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

After losing three of its last four games, Xavier was handed another setback Thursday when two freshmen suffered ankle sprains at practice.

Justin Cage and Brandon Cole both injured their right ankles and remain questionable for Saturday's game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Cintas Center. Their status will be re-evaluated today based on how each responds to treatment.

Cage has been Xavier's top reserve through seven games, averaging 19.7 minutes, 5.4 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Cole is a key reserve in the post who averages 7.7 minutes and 2.3 rebounds a game. Playing without Cage or Cole makes Xavier's task against the Ragin' Cajuns more difficult considering Cage has been one of Xavier's steadiest players through the first seven games.

Xavier coach Thad Mattasaid the Musketeers would be prepared to go Saturday whether Cage and Cole are healthy or not.

NOT SUCH A BAD LOSS: Xavier coaches were encouraged by the Musketeers' progress in their loss to Mississippi State, which dropped Xavier to 4-3.

"To see guys finally make some shots, and Anthony Myles finally attack the basket was huge for this team," Matta said. "The big thing we're looking for from our guys is consistency. Guys have to pull together and say, 'This is who we are, and this is what we have to do.' "

Xavier's undoing against Mississippi State and what the Musketeers want to avoid Saturday is a rash of turnovers from the backcourt. Guards Lionel Chalmers and Dedrick Finn are experienced, but Xavier has 13 fewer assists than turnovers this season.

"It's obvious we haven't connected yet as a team," Finn said. "But we're getting there. We're working on it. We've got to get that connection on the court."

Xavier's big men must continue to improve their transition defense to cut down on giving up fast break points, particularly on Saturday.

Louisiana-Lafayette (3-2) averages 75.8 points per game, and the Ragin' Cajuns added three previously ineligible players into the regular rotation earlier this week.



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