Tag Archives: Xavier Musketeers

Hoosiers stay perfect through non-conference schedule

CINCINNATI, Ohio—A small boy—likely the brother of one of the IU women’s basketball players—donning Indiana’s iconic candy-striped pants and a Hoosiers basketball jersey waited outside of the IU locker room. After several minutes of pacing back and forth in the hallway, he decided that he couldn’t wait any longer. He opened the door, allowing a muffled rendition of “Happy Birthday” to escape the confines of the Hoosier locker room and it echoed throughout the bowels of Xavier University’s Cintas Center. The team was wishing Assistant Coach Kevin Eckert a happy birthday.

Then, one by one, the players and team personnel filed out of the locker room and towards the team bus.

IU Assistant Coach Brandi Poole expressed her excitement for the Potbelly sandwiches that awaited the team on the bus for the ride back to Bloomington.

IU Coach Curt Miller remarked that his foot ached and he was quick to mention that he didn’t stomp his foot once in frustration at an official during the game.

To an outside observer, the team’s post-game demeanor following its 62-55 victory against Xavier on Sunday wouldn’t appear out of the ordinary.

However, this year’s IU women’s basketball team is far from ordinary. The road win completed IU’s perfect run through the gauntlet of its non-conference schedule.

Thirteen games, thirteen victories.

For those with a superstitious disposition, there’s not a more unlucky number than 13 but for the Hoosiers, the number represents an unprecedented milestone. In the 42-year history of the Hoosier women’s basketball program, IU has never won 13 games in a row, let alone had that many consecutive victories to start a season.

“Certainly not a lot of people outside our locker room gave us any kind of chance to do that,” Miller said. “We got a long way to go in this building process, years still to (be) where we ultimately want to be but (I’m) really proud of them.”

Miller cracked a smile as he began to list the team’s achievements through the first two months of the season.

“Six true road wins, 13-0, best start,” he said. “(I’m) really proud of those accomplishments.”

Miller’s squad successfully navigated the only three-game road trip scheduled for a Big Ten team this season and the Hoosiers finished the calendar year by defeating a Xavier team that has a 164-50 home record since the Cintas Center opened.

Miller’s faith in his bench and IU’s ability to dominate the paint proved to be the difference as the Hoosiers held off Xavier’s second half scoring run.

Seven Hoosiers contributed off the bench but no one was more valuable than senior center Simone Deloach, who recorded her second career double-double with season highs in points and rebounds. The Round Rock, Tex. native scored 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked one shot and logged one steal.

Led by its senior-laden frontcourt, IU outscored Xavier 38-16 in the paint and the Hoosiers outrebounded their opponent for the ninth time this season.

Senior forward Tabitha Gerardot, who led the Hoosiers with 19 points, said the team’s depth has been one of its strengths all season.

“Coach (Miller) is masterful at knowing who to put in,” Gerardot said. “Sometimes you go ‘Woah, I wasn’t expecting that’ and then that player shines out there and does something really good. I think it’s hard to guard a team that has so many players coming in.”

IU’s starters, along with Deloach, built up an early lead in the first 14 minutes and the cushion paid dividends for the rest of the game.

After missing its first four shots and falling behind 5-2, IU went on an 11-0 run that was fueled by four Xavier turnovers. Freshman Taylor Agler was able to maneuver through the Musketeers’ weak transition defense three separate times for layups in that span.

“We did the best job running…early in the game,” Miller said. “(It’s) always great (when) you get some transition points. We had points in the paint in the first ten minutes of the game. Right off the bat we were in double figures in points in the paint.”

With IU leading 15-9 in the first half, Xavier Coach Brian Neal adjusted to a full-court press. The coaching decision backfired in the short run as the Hoosiers exploited the Musketeers’ new defensive look and they went on a 12-2 run that lasted nearly seven minutes.

IU was in the driver’s seat with a 27-11 lead but the Hoosiers were unable to deliver the knockout blow to Xavier.

“We just couldn’t seem to make a few shots to put the dagger in,” Miller said. “We got a little big stagnant offensively, they dictated where they wanted us to go and we didn’t make some shots. We weren’t getting on the boards as we got tired.”

In the final 6:04 of the first half, IU shot 1-of-8 from the floor, turned the ball over six times and committed four fouls.

On the sideline, Miller was visibly upset with his team’s sudden implosion and he called two timeouts in the waning minutes of the first half to try to regroup his young backcourt.

“We had some turnover issues in stretches, we had some freshman mistakes,” he said. “I thought we played fatigued at times and didn’t play through our fatigue. We succumbed to it and made some mental mistakes.”

Miller said his message to his players at halftime was that Xavier wasn’t going to go away despite IU’s 12-point lead.

“They’ve won a lot of games in this building and they have a senior backcourt so we needed to fight,” he said. “We know we had twenty minutes to do what we called ‘something special,’ 13-0, and they fought all the way to the finish line.”

Shatyra Hawkes, Xavier’s senior point guard, nearly single-handedly willed the Musketeers to within striking distance of the Hoosiers. Hawkes finished with a game-high 23 points and she was 5-of-6 from the field in the second half.

When asked what made the 5-foot-3 guard so difficult to defend, Miller said that as a senior, Hawkes has been “through the wars.”

“She’s a very good one-on-one player and hard to match with at times,” he said. “We knew that coming in. She’s their leading scorer, she takes the most shots. We weren’t going to shut her totally down but if we could contain her from a monster game, we felt good.”

Excluding Hawkes, Xavier struggled to get in a rhythm offensively. Her teammates were 12-of-41 from the field and 3-of-21 from three-point range, making a comeback virtually impossible. The Musketeers never drew closer than seven points of the Hoosiers in the second half.

Gerardot said the players have 24 hours to be excited about the latest notch in their belt before the team has to reset for the beginning of conference play.

“Obviously it means a lot,” she said. “Everybody is really excited and pumped about what we’ve been able to accomplish this far. All our little goals and big goals have come together so it’s been a really fun start but we know have to look forward to the next part of the season so it’s kind of like starting over.”

Miller is giving his team a day off before it puts its nose back to the grindstone. On paper, the first week of 2014 is as challenging for the Hoosiers as any other five-day stretch in the regular season.

“Your reward for going 13-0 is starting off with back-to-back ranked teams in Iowa and Purdue so we know January is awaiting for us and it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “We’re young but this freshman class is fearless and we’ve got an energized senior group that’s having the best year of their careers. It’s going to be fun.”

“It’s always fun to be the underdog and you get to go lay it on the line and see what happens.”

How good can the Hoosiers be when Big Ten play rolls around?

“We’ve exceeded so many expectations, we’re far past what people thought so I don’t even want to set a limit,” Gerardot said. “I don’t know, we’ll see. I’m really excited though, it’s definitely the most fun college year I’ve had and I think everybody is enjoying the ride.”

Click here to read this article on the Indiana Daily Student website. 

Indiana women’s basketball seeks best start in school history

The last time the IU women’s basketball team was undefeated through its first 12 games, it was 1971–the first year of the program. Forty-two years later, the Hoosiers have repeated the feat and they have the opportunity to rewrite the school’s record books on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. against Xavier (5-6) in Cincinnati, OH.

IU’s trip to the Cintas Center is the finale of the Hoosiers’ three-game road trip in December. The team had more than a week without a game after its 107-73 victory at Cleveland State on Dec. 21, the second-largest single-game scoring outburst in program history.

Last year–IU Coach Curt Miller’s first season in Bloomington–the Hoosiers hosted Xavier and won 66-55. Only five IU players scored in that matchup; then-seniors Aulani Sinclair and Jasmine McGhee both accounted for 27 points.

Despite the loss of the team’s top three scorers from last season, the Hoosiers have reloaded with seven freshmen and redshirt sophomore Kaila Hulls, who is donning cream and crimson for the first time in her career after transferring from Bowling Green.

Freshman guard Larryn Brooks leads IU in scoring at 19.5 points per game and she dropped 37 points against Virginia Tech on Dec. 4 in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Six of the Hoosiers’ top seven scorers are in their first season playing for IU. First-year players are responsible for 71.2 percent of the team’s scoring.

Xavier returns four players who started at least 14 games last season. Three Musketeer guards–Shatyra Hawkes, Ashley Wanninger and Jenna Crittendon–average double figures in scoring. The trio was held to 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting against the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall last December.

What would a win mean for IU?

A victory against Xavier would give the Hoosiers a 13-0 record and the best start in school history. IU would remain the only undefeated team in the Big Ten and the team would break its own single-season record for most non-Big Ten regular season wins. Thirteen consecutive wins would be the longest winning streak by an IU women’s basketball team.

A Hoosier win on Sunday would mean IU would make it through its non-conference schedule unscathed before heading into its Big Ten opener against No. 21 Iowa on Jan. 2 in Bloomington.

While the Hoosiers haven’t faced a ranked opponent this season, the team has proven that it can win on the road. IU is 5-0 on the road and three of those games were decided by six points or fewer. By the time conference play tips off, the Hoosiers will have played more true road games than any other Big Ten team.

Arguably the most important aspect of the Hoosiers’ historic run is what it means for the team in the big picture of the entire season. IU has already eclipsed its win total from last season (11) and if the Hoosiers defeat Xavier, then the team’s NCAA Tournament resume couldn’t be more impressive through the first two months of the season.

Could history repeat itself?

When IU started 12-0 in the inaugural season of the Hoosier women’s basketball program, the team finished 14-2 and advanced to the AIAW Elite Eight. The Hoosiers followed that up with runs to the Final Four and Elite Eight in the next two seasons.

While it’s still early in the season and the Hoosiers have their entire Big Ten schedule ahead of them, Coach Miller and the IU women’s basketball team is approaching levels of greatness that haven’t been reached in decades.

Game Notes:

  • Indiana leads the all-time series 2-1
  • IU won the last meeting on Dec. 21, 2012 by a score of 66-55
  • This is IU’s first road game against Xavier
  • IU is the only Big Ten team to play three consecutive road games in the 2013-14 season
  • IU received votes in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll in the same week for the first time in five seasons
  • The Hoosiers are 30th in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and tied for 39th in theUSA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll
  • IU is 22nd in team RPI
  • The game will bring IU sophomore guard Nicole Bell back to her hometown of Cincinnati, OH, where she starred for Indian Hill High School

Click here to read this post on the Indiana Daily Student’s Hoosier Hype blog. 

Xavier Basketball: 5 Storylines for the Musketeers in 2013-14

Click here to read this article on BleacherReport.com.

Despite not making the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2005, the future looks bright for the Xavier Musketeers. The 2013-14 season will usher in Xavier’s transition to the Big East, the addition of Western Michigan transfer Matt Stainbrook to the starting lineup and the development of reigning Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year Semaj Christon.

With head coach Chris Mack at the helm, the Muskies will look to improve upon their 17-14 record and seventh-place finish in the A-10 last season. Xavier is in its second year of rebuilding the program.

The Musketeers will rely on a lot of youth next season with five freshmen and two sophomores on scholarship. Xavier can expect a lot of competition for playing time as well as depth on the bench—something the Musketeers lacked last season—as it enters a new era in the Big East.

Semaj Christon earned Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors last season.  (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Semaj Christon earned Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors last season.
(Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

1. Playing in the Big East

In the midst of conference re-alignment, the Big East became a revolving door as the “Catholic 7” of Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, St. John’s, Providence and Seton Hall separated from the rest of their conference; the Catholic 7 then added Xavier and Butler from the Atlantic 10 in addition to Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference to form a 10-team conference.

Despite sending five teams to the tournament last year, the A-10 has historically been regarded as a second-tier conference full of mid-majors. Xavier has achieved sustained success in the postseason that has exceeded the expectations for most mid-majors.

Xavier has 11 NCAA tournament berths in the past 13 seasons; the Musketeers have had three Sweet 16 and two Elite Eight appearances in that stretch. The Muskies will get the opportunity to take their program to the next level in the Big East.

The Big East is still one of the better basketball conferences, regardless if many fans add the qualifier “new” in front of it.

Butler has proven that it’s a program capable of making deep runs in the tournament.

Georgetown returns the majority of its roster from a Hoya team that had a 25-7 record and tied for a Big East Championship last year.

Creighton’s senior forward Doug McDermott will be one of the preseason National Player of the Year favorites after averaging more than 23 points and nearly eight rebounds per game last season.

Plus, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi projects for five Big East teams to make next season’s tournament in his first 2013-14 bracket.

The Big East Tournament will be held in Madison Square Garden, and ESPN New York reporter Kieran Darcy reported that the Big East agreed to a 12-year deal with Fox Sports.

The combination of star players, tournament-bound teams, major venues and multi-year television deals means that Xavier will have more national exposure than ever before.

2. Playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis

On Thanksgiving weekend, the Musketeers will play in the Bahamas in the Battle 4 Atlantis along with Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee, USC, Vilanova, UTEP and Wake Forest.

While the matchups have not been announced for the tournament, Xavier has the opportunity to play a potential Top Five team in Kansas, who recently added the class of 2013’s No. 1 recruit, Andrew Wiggins, and a fringe Top 25 team in Iowa, who returns its top five scorers from last year’s Hawkeye squad that lost in the NIT Championship and finished the season with a 25-13 record.

It could also face USC and the Trojans’ new head coach Andy Enfield, who led No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 last year, and Tennessee, who CBS College Basketball Insider Gary Parrish said should be considered a Top 25 team after the announcement of Antonio Barton’s transfer from Memphis.

The Musketeers could potentially face challenging competition in the Bahamas, which would help the strength of their nonconference schedule, and the tournament can only help Xavier’s case to make the NCAA tournament in March.

Xavier has not faced a Top 10 team in its nonconference schedule since 2008, and playing multiple ranked teams in consecutive days would prepare the Muskies for the challenges that lie ahead in the Big East.

3. The Development of Semaj Christon

Xavier’s point guard won A-10 Freshman of the Year honors last season after averaging 15.2 points and more than four assists per game.

Christon suffered his share of growing pains; he turned the ball over 10 times against VCU, made just one of his nine shots before fouling out in a four-point loss to Tennessee and he was 3-of-11 from the field against Wake Forest, to name a few of his less-than-stellar performances.

However, the Cincinnati native was one of the bright spots on an inexperienced team that lost its top five scorers from the 2011-12 season. Christon led Xavier in points, assists, steals and free throws attempted last year.

His best statistical game of the season was a 20-point, seven-assist and seven-rebound effort in an overtime win against No. 16 Saint Louis as Xavier made one final push for an at-large bid to the tournament.

Xavier coach Chris Mack tweeted this spring that Christon will be one of the team’s captains as a sophomore, so he will have a larger leadership role next season.

Just as the point guard will have an opportunity to improve in the locker room, he has room to get better on the court as well. Christon made just 25 percent of his 28 three-point shots and connected on only 67 percent of his free throws. While he averaged nearly five assists per game, he turned the ball over almost four times per game.

Xavier’s success in the inaugural season of the “new” Big East starts and ends with Christon.

If he can make strides upon the promising foundation he laid in his freshman year, he could become one of the premier point guards in the country and even be in the discussion for Big East Player of the Year.

4. The Fab 5

Xavier coach Chris Mack put together an impressive five-man freshman class for next season that has flown under the radar.

Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds were both given a grade of 92 by ESPN.

Davis and Reynolds were supposed to play last season for the Musketeers, but the NCAA denied the eligibility of both players, according to former CBS Sports college basketball writer Jeff Goodman. Goodman wrote that both players paid for their first year of school at Xavier University and could not practice with the team.

Reynolds is a 6’9″ forward who was originally a 2011 commit before he attended prep school at Brewster Academy in New Jersey for one year. He will be two years older than most freshmen.

Davis is a 6’2″ guard from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.

In addition, Xavier will have Brandon Randolph, a point guard out of Inglewood, Calif. who is ranked No. 86 on ESPN’s 2013 Top 100 players list.

Kamall Richards is the fourth member of Xavier’s freshman class. The 6’6″ small forward is a 3-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.

The Musketeers’ most recent commitment was from Aleksandar Vezenkov, a 6’8″ Bulgarian forward who has experience playing on the Bulgarian junior national team and the Greek professional team Aris, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Shannon Russell.

With half of Xavier’s 2012 recruiting class, which was ranked 14th in the country by ESPN, beginning their college careers next season, in addition to the three 2013 commits, the Musketeers’ freshman class has a bright future.

5. The Impact of Transfer Players

After sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules, Western Michigan transfer Matt Stainbrook, a junior center, will provide the Musketeers a big body in the middle. At 6’9″ and 275 pounds, Stainbrook averaged more than 11 points and nearly seven rebounds per game as a sophomore for the Broncos.

In two seasons at Western Michigan, Stainbrook registered 10 double-doubles and scored a career-high 32 points against South Dakota State as a sophomore.

The native of Bay Village, Ohio also had the chance to prove himself against some of the country’s top teams. He made seven of his eight shots against No. 19 Illinois in his freshman season in a 16-point effort. In his sophomore year, Stainbrook scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds against No. 5 Duke.

With the loss of Travis Taylor (11.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game) and Jeff Robinson (6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game) due to graduation, Stainbrook will have the opportunity to start immediately in Xavier’s frontcourt.

Similarly to Christon, Stainbrook was selected as a team captain by his teammates for the upcoming season, so he has earned his teammates’ respect despite not playing in a Xavier uniform yet in his college career.

On May 17, Xavier added a second transfer, former Indiana guard Remy Abell, to its roster. While the sophomore will have to sit out the 2013-14 season, he will be able to practice with the Musketeers and make his teammates even better.

Abell will bring the experience of practicing with two All-Americans, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, to Xavier, so he has seen firsthand what it takes to play at the highest level in college basketball.

Bracketology Report: Xavier Musketeers

Xavier Musketeers—(14-10, 7-4)—5th place in the Atlantic 10

Strength of schedule: 96

RPI: 98

BPI: 87

Good wins:

  • 62-47 vs. Butler
  • 57-52 vs. Temple
  • 70-63 vs. La Salle

Bad losses:

  • 56-55 vs. Wofford
  • 66-59 @ Wake Forest

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/20 @ Rhode Island
  • 2/23 vs. No. 24 VCU
  • 2/26 vs. No. 21 Memphis
  • 3/2 vs. Massachusetts
  • 3/6 vs. Saint Louis
  • 3/9 @ Butler

Xavier has made the NCAA Tournament in each of the last seven seasons and in 11 of the past 12 but the Musketeers are on pace to miss the Big Dance this year. XU Coach Chris Mack had a difficult challenge ahead of him for the 2012-13 season when senior guard Mark Lyons and sophomore forward Dez Wells left the team. Lyons and Mack disagreed about Lyons’ role on the team, which led to Lyons transferring to Arizona; Wells was expelled from Xavier University after allegedly committing sexual assault but he was never charged. XU Coach Mack had to replace all five starters from last year’s Musketeers team that made the Sweet Sixteen.

Led by freshman sensation Semaj Christon, Xavier has remained in the top third of the A-10 but the Muskies’ résumé needs some major improvement for XU to be chosen by the selection committee on March 17th. The highlight of Xavier’s non-conference schedule and overall résumé is a 15-point victory against Butler on Nov. 13. While XU has also defeated La Salle and Temple, who are fourth and seventh in the A-10, respectively, the Musketeers let too many winnable games slip out of their grasp. Xavier lost by three to Pacific, two to Vanderbilt in overtime, one to Wofford, four to Tennessee, six to Charlotte and two to Richmond.

Freshman point guard Semaj Christon has been one of the few bright spots for Xavier this season. (Image courtesy of www.bannersontheparkway.com)
Freshman point guard Semaj Christon has been one of the few bright spots for Xavier this season. (Image courtesy of http://www.bannersontheparkway.com)

While Xavier is certainly on the outside, looking in on the field of 68 teams selected for the NCAA Tournament, hope remains for the Musketeers. Three of Xavier’s final six games are against ranked opponents, in addition to a matchup against the A-10 leading Saint Louis Billikens. If the Musketeers can win three of those four games, or if they can win the A-10 Tournament, Xavier will be in the Big Dance.

Prediction: Xavier will defeat Rhode Island and Massachusetts but will lose to VCU, Memphis, Saint Louis and Butler. The Musketeers will be the No. 7 seed in the A-10 Tournament. XU will win its first round matchup but lose in the second round. Xavier’s 17-15 record will earn the Musketeers a No. 7 seed in the NIT.

Hoosiers prepare for weekend against the SEC

The No. 54 IU women’s tennis team is 8-0 after defeating Xavier and Ball State in Bloomington last weekend. The Hoosiers will play their first weekday match of the spring season when they travel to Knoxville, Tenn. to face No. 25 Tennessee at 4 p.m. Friday.

At 11 a.m. Sunday, IU will take on Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.

IU Coach Lin Loring said an ideal schedule is one divided evenly into three segments: matches in which IU is favored, matches that are a toss-up and matches in which IU’s opponent is favored.

The Hoosiers were favored in their first eight matches, but he said the team will face much tougher competition. Loring said IU is transitioning to the second and third phases of its schedule with the team’s matches this week.

With better opponents comes ranked competition. Tennessee has two ranked singles players and one ranked doubles pair. Junior Brynn Boren is No. 18 in singles and senior Kata Szekely is No. 34. In doubles, Szekely/Boren are the No. 3 combination in the country.

For IU, senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre are ranked No. 44 in doubles.

The Lady Volunteers are 0-4 this season with losses to No. 17 Nebraska, No. 22 Georgia Tech, No. 16 Michigan and No. 18 Notre Dame.

All four losses were by a margin of 4-2 or 4-3 on the road. In the past decade, IU is 3-7 against Tennessee and the Hoosiers have lost 5-2 to the Volunteers in each of the past two seasons.

Loring said Tennessee is traditionally very good and the Volunteers are normally a top-20 team, which is why he said the Vols are probably favored in the dual match.

He said the Volunteers’ challenging schedule and IU’s experience on the road has prepared both teams for Friday’s dual match.

“I think they’re definitely ready for us because they’ve played tough competition,” IU Coach Loring said. “We’ve played on the road already twice so I think it’s going to come down to who plays best that day.”

Kentucky is 4-2 with wins against Morehead State, Belmont, Marshall and Ohio State.

The Wildcats suffered a 4-3 loss to No. 48 Penn State as well as a 6-1 defeat against Tulane. In the past decade, IU is 6-3 against Kentucky, including a current Hoosiers win streak of three dual matches.

IU Coach Loring said Sunday’s match will be a toss-up between the two teams.

“We beat them the past two years, but last night they beat Ohio State 4-3 and Ohio State is always a good Big Ten team,” he said. “They’re better this year than they have been, and that’s going to be a tough road match too.”

Loring said similarly to Big Ten teams, IU should be familiar with Tennessee and Kentucky’s players since the Hoosiers play them on an annual basis.

However, he said this weekend’s SEC road trip will be a new experience for the sophomore class, which is a disadvantage for IU.

“We’ve already played twice on the road and Tennessee has a really nice new facility so hopefully we won’t have any adjustment problems,” Loring said. “Kentucky will probably be a little faster but hopefully it won’t be as fast as Marshall.”

IU will practice on Saturday at the University of Kentucky to become acclimated to the new courts and the Hoosiers will have a the day to prepare for their second dual match in three days.

“Hopefully the experience we’ve had so far will get us ready for them,” IU Coach Loring said. “We know we have two really good SEC schools on the road this weekend.”

IU women’s tennis improves to 8-0 with a pair of wins on Sunday

The No. 51 Indiana women’s tennis team remained undefeated by picking up two more wins last weekend to improve to 8-0 in the spring season. On Sunday, the Hoosiers faced Xavier and Ball State.

“We just played really well and didn’t do anything to beat ourselves,” IU Coach Lin Loring said.

IU set the tone by picking up the doubles point against Xavier by sweeping the three matches.

In the No. 1 singles match, senior Leslie Hureau bested Katie Pleiman 6-3, 6-4. At the No. 3 position, sophomore Katie Klyczek topped Kally Alkire 6-0, 7-6. Junior Sophie Garre, sophomore Shannon Murdy and senior Jithmie Jayawickrema defeated their opponents in straight sets.

Indiana’s lone loss to Xavier was in the No. 2 singles match. Sophomore Alecia Kauss dropped the first set to the Atlantic 10 Women’s Tennis Rookie Performer of the Week, Alex Brinker. Kauss came out strong in the second set to take a 5-2 lead but Brinker fought back to win 7-6.

Even though Indiana won the match 6-1, Loring said that he was impressed by the Musketeers.

“There were some pretty good players at the top of Xavier’s lineup who hit the ball pretty hard,” he said. “It’s always a big match for them to play us so they gave it their best shot.”

Indiana’s winning ways continued against Ball State. IU Coach Loring made two lineup changes between the matches. Kauss and Klyczek switched between the No. 2 and No. 3 singles positions. In doubles, Jayawickrema replaced junior Gabrielle Rubenstein in the third doubles pairing.

The Hoosiers won all three doubles matches against the Cardinals. Hureau/Garre defeated Courtney Earnest/Courtney Wild 8-2. Kauss/Murdy bested Bethany Moore/Kristel Sanders 8-2 in No. 2. Klyczek/Jayawickrema topped Paola Rodriguez/Ayaka Terashi 8-1.

Indiana won all six singles matches in straight sets. In the No. 1 match, Hureau defeated Wild 6-1, 6-2 and Klyczek bested Earnest 6-2, 6-1 at the No. 2 position en route to a 7-0 Hoosiers victory.

Loring said that an ideal schedule is divided equally into three types of matches: ones in which the team is favored to win, ones in which the matches are a toss-up and ones in which the opposing team is favored. He said that Indiana is moving into the second and third stages of its schedule. Loring said that most of Indiana’s remaining matches will be toss-ups or ones in which the opposing team will be favored to win.

The Hoosiers will be back in action with two matches next week. Indiana travels to Knoxville, Tenn. to play No. 25 Tennessee on Friday at 4 p.m. On Sunday, IU will take on Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. at 11 a.m.

IU women’s tennis team plays host to duals on Sunday

The No. 51 IU women’s tennis team surrendered its first point of the season to Marshall last weekend but still managed to win the dual match to continue its undefeated streak through the first six matches of 2013.

The Hoosiers had this week off and will face Xavier and Ball State this Sunday. IU faces Xavier at 11 a.m. and Ball State at 4 p.m. at the IU Tennis Center.

Indiana’s doubles pairing of senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre are ranked No. 31 in the nation. Neither Xavier nor Ball State has any ranked singles or doubles players.

The Musketeers are 4-1 this season. IU and Xavier’s one common opponent this season is the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks. Indiana won by a margin of 7-0 and Xavier won 4-3. IU Coach Lin Loring said that Xavier’s victory against Miami is normally a good win for the Musketeers and he said that he expects Xavier to be tougher than they were last year.

Indiana has played Xavier three times in the past five years and the Hoosiers won 7-0 in each match.

Ball State this season is 5-1. The Cardinals’ loss was to Michigan State, who Indiana will play on March 30 in East Lansing, Mich. IU plays Ball State on an annual basis and the Hoosiers have won every dual match against the Cardinals in the past decade, allowing no more than two points in a match.

Loring said that Ball State’s women’s tennis program is on its way up, however, with Coach Christine Bader in her third season with the Cardinals.

“She played at Michigan State so I think that team is going to get a little stronger every year,” Loring said.

Loring said that he thinks Ball State is the weaker of Indiana’s two opponents this weekend, which is why the Hoosiers are playing them in their second dual match Sunday.

Even though the Hoosiers suffered their first singles and doubles losses against Marshall, Loring said that the team isn’t changing its approach to its practices.

“We’re going to keep working on the stuff we’ve been working on because we probably should have lost a few points up until now,” he said.

Loring said that Indiana’s greatest quality this season is its consistency, which could be a major reason why the Hoosiers are a 41-1 during their first six dual matches of the spring season. He said that the team’s goal is to bring its A-game every match.

“We really haven’t had any matches where the team as a whole struggled and I’m not just talking about winning or losing. Our level of play has been pretty high,” Loring said. “We really want to continue a consistent level of play and if it’s good enough to win, we win, but if not, we’ll lose but at least we brought our A-game.”

No. 51 IU women’s tennis allows first point of season in 6-1 win

For the first time in the spring season, the No. 51 IU women’s tennis team allowed a point. On Sunday, Indiana faced Marshall at the Huntington Tennis Club in Barboursville, W. Va. Despite losing one match in both singles and doubles play, the Hoosiers still cruised 6-1 to their sixth win of the season over the Thundering Herd.

The Huntington Tennis Club has only five tennis courts and IU Coach Lin Loring said that it made the dual match take longer. The teams had to wait until another match finished before starting the No. 6 singles match.

IU Coach Loring said that it was a good experience for the Hoosiers to play on the road and experience new court conditions.

“The lighting was poor, the courts were fast and the courts played to Marshall’s favor,” he said. “They have a lot of big hitters, players that I would call first strike hitters but we didn’t try to out-hit them and we stuck to our game plan.”

Senior Leslie Hureau won the No. 1 singles match against Dominika Zaprazna 6-1, 7-5. Sophomore Katie Klyczek lost the first set against Maria Voscekova but came from behind to win 2-6, 6-4, 10-5. Sophomores Alecia Kauss and Carolyn Chupa, along with junior Sophie Garre, won their matches in straight sets.

IU Coach Loring said that luckily Kauss quickly won her match 6-1, 6-2, which allowed sophomore Shannon Murdy and Marshall’s Karlyn Timko to play their match on the open court.

Loring said that Murdy had a bad match against a big hitter in Karlyn Timko. He said that due to there only being five courts, by the time the No. 6 singles match was played, Indiana had already won the dual match and Timko could play with no pressure on her.

In doubles, Marshall’s Zaprazna/Voscekova defeated the No. 31 combination of Hureau/Garre 8-4 in the No. 1 doubles match. In the No. 2 match, Chupa/Klyczek defeated Ellie Ball/Kara Kucin 8-3.

Since Indiana and Marshall split the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches, the third doubles match determined which team would win the doubles point.

Kauss/Murdy came from behind to top Timko/Dana Oppinger 9-7.

“It was pretty exciting for us,” Loring said. “We were down 7-6, maybe 7-5, so that was a nice comeback and good experience for us.”

Indiana will return to action next Sunday when they host Xavier at 11:00 am and Ball State at 4:00 pm at the IU Tennis Center.

College basketball stock report: 5 teams to buy, sell or hold

Illinois

SELL

The Fighting Illini started the season 12-0 and defeated No. 10 Gonzaga on the road by double digits. However, since Illinois’ victory over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 16, John Groce’s squad is 3-5 and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Illini lost to unranked Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern, which does not bode well since their schedule will only get tougher as the season progresses. They still have to play Michigan twice, Indiana and Michigan State for the first time, in addition to rematches against Minnesota and Ohio State.

Michigan State

BUY

It's a good time to be in East Lansing, Mich. as Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans sit atop the Big Ten standings with a 6-1 record. (Image courtesy of http://wkzo.com/news/articles/2012/sep/24/msu-basketball-coach-tom-izzo-guest-speaker-at-kalamazoo-benefit/)
It’s a good time to be in East Lansing, Mich. since Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans sit atop the Big Ten standings with a 6-1 record. (Image courtesy of http://wkzo.com/news/articles/2012/sep/24/msu-basketball-coach-tom-izzo-guest-speaker-at-kalamazoo-benefit/)

The Spartans were on the verge of dropping out of the AP Top 25 after three losses in the 2012 calendar year. Michigan State’s challenging non-conference schedule paid off; Tom Izzo’s squad is leading the Big Ten with a two game lead over Michigan and Indiana. Three of Michigan State’s Big Ten wins are by three points or fewer, which separates great teams from the good ones in March.

 Oregon

BUY

The Ducks sit alone at the top of the Pac-12 standings after defeating No. 24 UCLA last Saturday. Arizona and UCLA only appear once on Oregon’s schedule, which means there are no ranked opponents remaining on the Ducks’ schedule. Oregon is in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 now that the team’s biggest challenges are in the Ducks’ rearview mirror.

Wisconsin

HOLD

Bo Ryan’s Badgers are a very perplexing team. Wisconsin lost four of its first 10 games then rattled off seven consecutive wins, including victories over No. 12 Illinois and No. 2 Indiana. After defeating the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall, the Badgers dropped two games to Iowa and Michigan State by a total of six points. Wisconsin has the coach and the talent to finish in the top three in the Big Ten or the Badgers could end up sixth or seventh. They have been too inconsistent to determine how good they can be in college basketball’s toughest conference.

Xavier

BUY

The 2012-13 Musketeers are possibly one of the weakest Xavier teams in the past decade and most Atlantic 10 projections have Xavier as a middle-of-the-road team in the conference yet Semaj Christon & Co. have started to turn their season around in conference play. Don’t look now but Xavier is tied with Virginia Commonwealth for first place. The Muskies have pulled out close wins against Temple, St. Bonaventure and La Salle after losing four straight games in non-conference play. They don’t play VCU and Butler until late in the season, which means that Xavier has over a month to improve before it faces two of the A-10’s best teams.

Learning to appreciate success in college basketball

The intention of this article is not to bash Miami University or its men’s basketball program but instead to verbalize the process I went through of realizing the different levels of college basketball programs, how difficult it is to maintain national prominence and that success takes different forms for different schools.

Over the course of my childhood and teenage years, I have been very fortunate to see the college basketball programs that I support be incredibly successful.

I watched my first true love, the Xavier Musketeers, reach the Elite Eight in 2004 and 2008, along with Sweet Sixteen appearances in ’09, ’10 and ’12. For a mid-major program, Xavier’s 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in the past 12 years is a praiseworthy accomplishment. Southern Illinois, my dad’s alma mater, made the Big Dance every year from 2002 through 2007, which included two Sweet Sixteen appearances. Even though my allegiance to Indiana University is the shortest of these three schools, the Hoosiers have gone nowhere but up as a program since I decided to attend IU last spring. The Hoosiers made the Sweet Sixteen last March in a season in which they defeated three top five teams and Indiana is off to a 13-1 start this season.

While I realize how impressive it is for an A-10 school such as Xavier to make the NCAA Tournament nearly every year for over a decade, for Southern Illinois to rise to national prominence out of the Missouri Valley Conference and for Tom Crean to lead Indiana from six wins in 2008 to 27 in 2011 and a preseason number one rank in 2012, I have still taken these successes for granted. I have grown up cheering for college basketball programs that have hired excellent coaches, recruited elite players and cultivated winning environments.

On Wednesday night, I walked a mile in another program’s shoes—those of Miami (OH) University. The RedHawks hosted the Massachusetts Minutemen at John D. Millett Hall in Oxford, Ohio.

Millett Hall, an arena that seats 6,400 people for basketball games, opened in 1968 and for the most part, appears frozen in time in its inaugural year. The seats are a putrid green color, the court is surrounded by red carpet and the jumbotron has a delay of at least 30 seconds to update the current lineups on the floor when substitutions occur. Several “NCAA Second Round” banners hang from the ceiling along with an “NIT Final 8” banner commemorating the 1993 RedHawks team. That’s when it hit me—few schools can be perennial powers in college basketball and even fewer can sustain that success at the mid-major level. Playing in the Mid-American Conference means that Miami has to win its conference tournament or compile a season-long résumé impressive enough to earn an at-large bid from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee if it wants to be in the field of 68 teams that compete for a national championship.

John D. Millett Hall at Miami University is the home of RedHawks basketball.
John D. Millett Hall at Miami University is the home of RedHawks basketball.

While I laughed to myself at the thought of a team hanging banners for advancing to the Final 8 in the NIT or the second round of the NCAA Tournament, I began to realize how spoiled I’ve been to watched Xavier in the 21st Century, Southern Illinois in the early to mid-2000s and the revival of the Indiana Hoosiers. Since the new millennium, Miami has not reached the height of those other programs but it is nothing like those other institutions. Miami University is not known for its men’s basketball program. Only eight RedHawks have played in the NBA—most notably Ron Harper, who is a five-time NBA Champion, and Wally Szczerbiak. The school prides itself in its men’s hockey program that has made the NCAA Tournament in each of the past seven years, including two Frozen Four appearances. Most of Miami’s athletic focus is on hockey and the school welcomes any additional success in its other sports with open arms.

There are 347 Division I men’s college basketball programs competing for 68 spots in the annual NCAA Tournament. Schools need to have to right combination of coaches, players, funding and support from its fan base in order to have success. Miami is in the midst of developing its recipe to be a power in the MAC and to make the NCAA Tournament. With a first-year head coach and a starting lineup with four players 6’3” or shorter, the Miami RedHawks have different goals and expectations than the No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers that I am accustomed to watching. A winning season, a MAC Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance would mean the world to the Miami RedHawks and there’s nothing wrong with any of those goals.

College basketball is arguably the most exciting sport to follow because of the ever-present David vs. Goliath matchups and the Cinderella stories every March that exist because smaller programs reach great heights—and if Miami puts together the right coaching staff and roster, one day Millett Hall could be home to an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight banner to hang alongside of its “1993 NIT Final 8” counterpart.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!