Oral Roberts-Xavier Preview

One of the most embarrassing moments in the history of Xavier

basketball will leave the team short-handed for the near

future.

The eighth-ranked Musketeers will be without three of their top

four scorers when they try to remain undefeated Sunday against

visiting Oral Roberts.

It’s been a week since the dust settled from Xavier’s 76-53 win

over rival Cincinnati on Dec. 10. Referees ended the game in

disturbing fashion with 9.4 seconds left following an on-court

brawl involving players from both schools.

While the Musketeers came out ahead on the scoreboard, there

were ramifications off it. Senior guard Tu Holloway (17.6 points

per game) was suspended one game, fellow senior Mark Lyons (17.4

ppg) for two games and starting freshman swingman Dezmine Wells

(9.5) for four. Seldom-used sophomore walk-on Landen Amos also

garnered a four-game suspension.

The starting trio of Holloway, Lyons and Wells has combined to

average 44.5 points, 12.2 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game.

“We accept full responsibility for our part in the events that

occurred at the end of our game (versus Cincinnati),” athletic

director Mike Bobinski told Xavier’s official website. “It was both

embarrassing and disappointing and clearly did not reflect the

standards of behavior we expect from our student-athletes. We

resolve to do whatever is necessary to prevent an incident like

this from occurring in the future.”

Looking to open with nine straight victories for the second time

in four seasons and win its 15th straight game at the Cintas

Center, Xavier will have only eight scholarship players available

Sunday. Four of them have never started a collegiate game.

Seven-foot senior Kenny Frease will be on the floor after he

finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and a

bloody face as result of a punch from Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates

during the brawl.

“He’s got a black and blue eye,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said.

“I give him a lot of credit (on his play).”

The short-handed Musketeers are likely to rely on Frease more

than usual with some of their bigger names out of the lineup,

particularly on the defensive where Xavier has held its last three

opponents – Purdue, Butler and the Bearcats – to 59.0 points and

33.0 percent shooting.

Though the brawl ultimately overshadowed their play on the

floor, the Musketeers limited Cincinnati to 27.9 percent shooting,

including 1 for 16 from 3-point range.

“The way we played, it was probably our best game of the year,”

Mack said.

Oral Roberts (7-4) has averaged just 59.3 points on 38.8 percent

shooting while losing two of three following a six-game winning

streak.

The Golden Eagles did manage to remain competitive during a

67-61 loss at Gonzaga on Thursday. Damen Bell-Holter, who hit a

65-foot buzzer-beater to give Oral Roberts a 58-55 win at

Arkansas-Little Rock on Monday, had a team-high 16 points against

Gonzaga.

Oral Roberts has dropped four straight road games against Top 25

opponents since a 78-71 victory at then-No. 3 Kansas on Nov. 15,

2006.

Xavier holds a 10-7 lead in the all-time series with Oral

Roberts. The schools split their last two meetings during the

1986-87 season, while members of the Midwestern Collegiate

Conference.