Coach blasts No. 24 Xavier after its lackluster A10 win Print
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Thursday, 10 January 2008 13:04
NCAAB Headline News


 CINCINNATI (AP) -Surely, after playing so well for so long, No. 24 Xavier was due for one of those days when the emotional edge is a little dull and everything is a bit of a struggle.
All those things happened in the Musketeers' Atlantic 10 opener on Wednesday night, an uninspired 83-68 victory over St. Bonaventure. It was no surprise that Xavier (13-3) was a little off its game.
What happened next was stunning.
Coach Sean Miller laced into his team with uncustomary anger. He called his players selfish. He said they had failed to listen for the first time all season. And he was adamant that it wouldn't happen again.
If he has to make some lineup changes to make his point, so be it.
``We have to take a hard look at ourselves and see where we go from here,'' Miller said.
The self-analysis started at the final buzzer.
Miller kept his team in the locker room for an inordinately long time, sparing no words. He'd spent most of the game screaming from the sideline over the Musketeers' lackadaisical defense, which helped St. Bonaventure (6-9) stay in the game.
Why was Miller so worked up over Xavier's fifth straight win?
``We might be believing in the hype right now, and we don't need to do that,'' said B.J. Raymond, who had 21 points.
That was the crux of it.
Xavier turned a lot of heads with the way it dismantled Kansas State, Virginia and Auburn in its last three games. The Musketeers' balance and unselfishness - seven players reached double figures against Kansas State and Virginia - made folks marvel.
A local newspaper columnist went so far as to pick them to reach the Final Four, something Xavier has never done. The top sports headline in the Wednesday morning newspaper: ``Make Final Four plans, XU fans.''
A few hours later, Miller made headlines with his harangue.
``That's the problem: I'm going to strip the hype,'' Miller said. ``The reality is we're really average when we don't play as hard as we can and as unselfish as we can.''
They weren't really selfish on Wednesday night, just a little slow, especially on defense. But Miller wasn't about to let a team that has shown so much promise go soft against a team it knew it could beat with less than its best effort.
That's been Xavier's problem in recent years. The Musketeers have followed a breakout win with a subpar performance, making them bob in and out of the Top 25.
Xavier loaded up its nonconference schedule this season - Indiana, Creighton, Arizona State, Tennessee, Kansas State, Virginia - hoping to raise its national profile, toughen its team and improve its standing for the NCAA tournament.
The tough stretch has done the Musketeers a lot of good. Miller isn't about to let them ease up now that conference play has started.
``That's not allowed,'' Raymond said.
Miller's biggest complaint was with a defense that allowed St. Bonaventure to have one of its best shooting games of the season. The Bonnies went 11-of-18 on 3-point shots, only the second team this season to shoot 50 percent or better from behind the arc against Xavier.
``It's just embarrassing to us because we take pride in our defense,'' Raymond said. ``They scored on six possessions in a row. It looked like we were out there to trade baskets.''
Miller saw nothing in practice leading up to the game that indicated his team had lost its focus. He was surprised when the Musketeers repeatedly were out of place on defense, something he attributed to a lack of enthusiasm.
``If you can't get excited to play the first game of the Atlantic 10 season, something's wrong with you,'' he fumed. ``We've got a couple of guys who have got something wrong with them right now.
``We dealt with some things we haven't dealt with all year long. The reality is we broke down quite a bit.''
Now, the reality is that Xavier will have plenty of inspiration on Saturday against Fordham (6-7), which is coming off a 74-62 loss at Duquesne on Wednesday night.
``I hope we come out more ready against Fordham,'' Miller said.
Count on it.
 

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