By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Sometimes a loss is just a loss, out of mind before the next game or even the next practice.
Not this one. For Xavier, the Musketeers' 13-point loss at Duquesne Jan. 14 is personal.
It exposed Xavier then as a team with deficiencies from point guard to power forward. The Dukes dominated XU inside, making their first nine shots, and harassed Xavier on the perimeter, forcing 16 turnovers.
Much has changed for both teams since then, but entering the 2 p.m. rematch today against Duquesne at Cintas Center, Xavier has not forgotten what happened in Pittsburgh.
"They kind of did whatever they wanted with us when we were on defense," Xavier freshman Justin Doellman said. "We owe these guys. We got beat by them at their place. It shouldn't have happened. We'll get them here."
Doellman, in particular, would like to atone for the first game at Duquesne. He scored eight points but grabbed just one rebound while playing the power forward spot. More importantly, he was guarding Duquense's Elijah Palmer, who shot 9-of-12 and scored 19 points.
"We need all five guys to play better defense than we played up there," Xavier coach Thad Mattasaid. "It just wasn't J.D. But when he rebounds the ball, we are a much better basketball team."
Lately, Xavier has been one of the best basketball teams in the Atlantic 10.
It took the Musketeers (17-9, 8-5 A-10) three weeks to regroup after that Duquesne loss, but Xavier has moved from last to third place in the West Division with three regular-season games left.
Duquesne, which hasn't posted a winning A-10 record since 1991, has won just four games since beating XU and is 5-9 in the league and 10-15 overall.
Xavier has won seven straight games, all in February, improving its record in the month to 14-0 during the last two seasons.
"We understand what goes on during the game, and we've done a great job adjusting during the game," senior guard Lionel Chalmers said. "Obviously, we were not doing something right (against Duquesne). I don't think we were that great of a team to understand that at the time. Even though coach told us what we needed to do, we weren't able to do it. We're a different team now as far as that goes."
Xavier is also getting more production from reserve players such as forward Brandon Cole and guard Dedrick Finn.
Cole played nine minutes the first game against Duquesne and failed to score while collecting four rebounds and three fouls. In XU's last three games, the 6-foot-8 freshman has averaged 13.7 minutes, 7.3 points and 3.7 rebounds. His effort, defensively, could alleviate some pressure down low for Xavier today and in closing out the season.
"They're really tough, a lot tougher than we expected," Cole said of Duquesne's big men. "They bang inside and outside. Unfortunately, we went up there and weren't ready to play. They out-toughed us in every aspect of the game."
Xavier vs. Duquesne
Tipoff: 2 p.m. today, Cintas Center (10,250).
Records: Xavier 17-9, 8-5 A-10; Duquesne 10-15, 5-9.
Radio: WLW-AM (700).
TV: Fox Sports Net Ohio.
Series: Xavier leads 21-14.
Line: XU by 15.
Coach: Thad Matta (69-21, third year; 93-29 overall).
Coach: Danny Nee (29-54, third year; 397-333 overall).
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