Hawaii-Xavier Preview

Less than two weeks ago, Xavier was undefeated and beginning a

stretch of games that seemed to favor it staying that way to begin

Atlantic 10 play.

Now, the 14th-ranked Musketeers find themselves trying to avoid

their first three-game losing streak in more than seven years.

After the return of Tu Holloway couldn’t help, Xavier hopes Mark

Lyons can provide a spark when the Musketeers take on Hawaii in the

consolation bracket of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on

Friday.

Xavier was 8-0 when an ugly brawl at the end of a 76-53 win over

crosstown rival Cincinnati on Dec. 10 led to the suspensions of

Lyons, Holloway, freshman forward Dez Wells and little-used reserve

Landen Amos.

Without all four, who combined to average 44.5 points, 12.2

rebounds and 8.5 assists, Xavier suffered a 64-42 loss to Oral

Roberts at home last Sunday, shooting 32.7 percent while playing

with only eight players available.

Even the return of Holloway couldn’t spark a stagnant offense,

as the Musketeers fell 68-58 to Long Beach State on Thursday.

Holloway finished with 17 points in 40 minutes, but Xavier was down

16 early in the second half and couldn’t complete a late rally.

Holloway was held to three field goal attempts and five points

in the first half. Of his 17 points, 12 came in the final 12 1/2

minutes with the 49ers already ahead by a comfortable margin.

Coach Chris Mack hopes the end of Lyons’ suspension will help

get the offense going. Lyons is averaging 17.4 points and is 13 for

30 (43.3 percent) from 3-point range. He’s also contributing 3.8

rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

“That’s nothing new. But when (Holloway) doesn’t have a couple

of running mates that take a little pressure off and are able to

get to the rim easier maybe than the guys we have on the floor

tonight, that’s the game plan,” Mack said. ”But hopefully as we

start to welcome these other guys back, we’ll be a little tougher

team than to key on one guy on the perimeter.”

Wells and Amos will miss the last two games of the

tournament.

While their season has changed quickly, Mack insists there is no

panicking. Xavier hasn’t lost three in a row since Nov. 30-Dec. 18,

2004.

“We’ve got competitive kids,” Mack said. ”They know it’s a long

season. We have the ability within 24 hours to feel a lot better

about ourselves because of the tournament format. We’ve got to come

out tomorrow night and quickly feel better about ourselves.”

The Musketeers will face another quality opponent in Hawaii

(5-5), which had its three-game winning streak snapped with a 65-62

loss to Auburn on Thursday. Leading scorer Zane Johnson had 18

points and six rebounds, but the Rainbow Warriors trailed most of

the way, taking their first lead with 8 seconds left. The Tigers

scored on the next possession with 3 to go.

Hawaii is facing its second ranked opponent this season. It lost

73-54 to then-No. 22 Gonzaga on Nov. 19.

Xavier’s only previous meeting against Hawaii was a 70-58 win in

the 2002 NCAA tournament.

The winner will take on either Clemson or Southern Illinois on

Sunday for third place in the tournament.