Sunday, February 8, 2004

Cage makes presence known as a starter

Xavier notebook

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Xavier coach Thad Matta started freshman Justin Cage for the second straight game in Saturday's 74-52 victory against Fordham at Cintas Center.

Xavier's Lionel Chalmers gets hacked at by Fordham's Mushon Ya'akosi.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
In the two starts, against Cincinnati and Fordham, Cage averaged 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds, but at 6 feet 6, he gives Xavier more size and versatility.

"It gives us a different look, defensively, of length," Matta said. "He's a shot challenger as well as a rebounder. Cage does a good job of rebounding on both ends of the floor."

With Cage and freshman Justin Doellman starting the last two games, it marks just the third time Matta has started two freshmen at Xavier.

"I'm just trying to play my role," Cage said. "For me, it gives me a little more confidence."

SATO MOVES UP: Senior Romain Sato moved into 10th-place on Xavier's all-time rebounding list by grabbing 11 rebounds Saturday. He has 752 for his career. Sato is the only active player in Division I basketball with more than 1,700 points, 700 rebounds and 200 assists. He is also one of only four Xavier players to rank in Xavier's top 10 in scoring and rebounding.

CAUDLE OUT, COLE IN: Forward Will Caudle missed the game because of a thigh injury. It is not known if he will be available for Tuesday's game at Richmond.

In his place, freshman reserve forward Brandon Cole scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds.

"I'm just trying to establish a presence coming off the bench," Cole said. "When I get the ball and look to score, I feel like I've got a good chance of putting the ball in the basket."

Cole has just 44 shot attempts for the season, but he leads Xavier by making 54.5 percent of his shots. Matta would like to see as much effectiveness on the defensive end from Cole.

"He's got to keep the focus," Matta said. "He plays well in spurts. ... But you've got to go down to the other end. You can't get screened on a downscreen and give up a 3-pointer."

TWO-GAME STREAK: Lionel Chalmers averaged 21.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in Xavier's two wins this week. He combined to shoot 50.0 from the field and 58.8 percent from 3-point range.



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