|No. 14 Xavier not as perfect as its record|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 04 December 2008 10:54|
Despite its impressive season start, No. 14 Xavier is not nearly as perfect as its record.
The Musketeers improved to 7-0 on Wednesday night with an 81-74 win over Auburn that felt like a big step backward. A team that had won every game by masking its shortcomings with defense and determination found out what it looks like when those two qualities aren't there.
It's not pretty.
Coach Sean Miller wasn't very happy with the latest win, which was his 100th at the school. After the Musketeers got up by 22 points in the second half, they went soft, giving up a lot of fastbreak baskets because they were slow getting back on defense.
of the season. They established an identity in the first six games by playing tough man-to-man defense and gritting it out in the closing minutes.
For the first time on Wednesday, the defense and the grit were gone. Instead, the Musketeers looked like an overly content team.
``That's one thing we pride ourselves on at Xavier - we don't get to a point and plateau,'' said guard B.J. Raymond, who scored a career-high 32 points and pulled them through. ``We try to get better all the way through the season and keep writing our story and just make sure at the end, we've reached our potential.
``Right now, we're not playing up to our potential. We have a great upside. I think once we get to our upside, we'll be a forced to be reckoned with.''
For the moment, the Musketeers are missing two important things.
Freshman point guard Terrell Holloway played a key role in Xavier's three-game sweep at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which included a signature win over Memphis. He suffered a stress fracture in his left foot during the tournament, sidelining him for the last two games.
The best guess is that he could be back in two weeks. X-rays were scheduled on Thursday to see how the bone is healing.
Jackson - who is more of a shooting guard - has to handle the ball, forcing Xavier into more of a deliberate, half-court offense.
Auburn repeatedly trapped Jackson, who made bad decisions and had eight of Xavier's 22 turnovers, a big reason the Tigers were able to keep it close.
``I didn't handle it very well,'' Jackson said. ``I think we all handled it exceptionally well except me. Eight turnovers is not acceptable for my position, not acceptable for my team. Hopefully it's something I move past and get better.''
Miller noted that Jackson is essentially playing out of position and hadn't faced that type of defensive pressure before. Also, he didn't get much help from teammates in getting the ball up the court.
``I'm not as down because he had eight turnovers as you might expect, because some of his turnovers had a lot to do with the other players, not just him,'' Miller said.
The free-throw shooting is another concern. Xavier traditionally has been one of the Atlantic 10's best. This season, the Musketeers are shooting a below-average 66 percent - a bad statistic for a team that currently relies on getting the ball inside and drawing fouls.
``There's only so much you can control on free throws,'' Miller said. ``We're really shooting a lot of them (in practice). We've just got to stay with it from the foul line, keep working.''
The one thing that Miller can control is the lackadaisical defense. Forward Derrick Brown, one of the team's best defenders, has been slowed by a sprained right ankle all season and was slow getting back on defense in the second half against Auburn, when he had only three rebounds.
``Derrick - we've just got to get him to run harder,'' Miller said. ``I think when he starts doing that, good things will happen.''
Miller threatened to change the starting lineup for a game next week against Ohio unless he sees more hustle.
``We're not perfect,'' Miller said. ``We're playing with one man down (Holloway). But if you don't try or a couple of guys just aren't running back, that's just unacceptable in any good program in the country. To our team's credit, that's something we've done remarkably well in our first six games. In our seventh game, we're asking for a lot of problems in our future if we do that.''