CINCINNATI -- As Skip Prosser watched his former Loyola players warming up before yesterday's game at Xavier, he talked about mixed feelings, about how strange it felt to watch the players who gave him a ride to last season's NCAA tournament preparing to compete against him.
After Prosser walked around the Cincinnati Gardens floor to shake hands with each Greyhound and wish him luck, Prosser's new team showed no such warmth.
Behind a pressing, trapping, man-to-man defense and a roster packed with quickness and depth, Xavier set the tone by scoring the game's first 11 points, and the Musketeers had their way throughout an 86-51 whipping of the Greyhounds before 7,663.
"It was tough seeing the [Loyola] kids warming up, then chatting with them in the locker room after the game," said Prosser, who left Loyola to replace Pete Gillen at the end of last season after serving as Gillen's assistant for eight years. "And in many ways it was like any other game. Xavier beat Loyola, and Skip didn't have a whole lot to do with it."
Skip's team didn't need too much help. Besides having noticeably more talent than Loyola, the Musketeers (3-0) caught the Greyhounds (2-2) less than 48 hours after their victory over Monmouth. Loyola also was playing its fourth game in eight days.
"That's college basketball. We inherited the schedule and we have to face it," said Brian Ellerbe, Loyola's first-year coach. "Skip has a lot of tough kids who play with a lot of tenacity. They're a high-level Division I team picked to win their league. What are we, picked eighth in ours? That's what happened today.
"It's hard to find bright spots in a game like this. We were never in it. For me to say there was a bright spot would be facetious."
Xavier, which has compiled a 140-17 record at the Gardens over the past 11 seasons, had been beset by slow starts in its first two victories. The Musketeers started with a sprint yesterday, and rarely stopped pushing.
Their swarming defense forced 26 turnovers, held Loyola to 17-for-59 shooting (28.8 percent), and held Loyola's leading scorer, senior forward B.J. Pendleton (eight points), scoreless in the first half. They overwhelmed the Greyhounds on the boards with a 50-36 rebounding advantage. They passed the ball unselfishly, recording 19 assists. They hit open shots from every angle.
Senior forward Pete Sears, still sore after knee surgery three months ago, looked quite healthy while leading all scorers with 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Senior center Larry Sykes turned in a hard-nosed 15-point, 14-rebound performance. Senior guard Jeff Massey chipped in 14 points and four assists.
Sophomore guard Darius Johnson was perhaps Loyola's lone bright spot. Johnson returned to his hometown yesterday, and made his first start of the season. He gave Loyola its only offensive life in the first half with 12 points, but that didn't prevent Xavier from establishing its dominance with a 43-25 halftime lead.
Senior center David Credle had 10 points. Johnson's backcourt teammates, Milt Williams and freshman point guard John McDonald, combined for seven points on 3-for-16 shooting. McDonald committed five turnovers.
"We have a young backcourt. It's hard to throw a freshman point guard out there and expect him to beat serious pressure. They just kept coming at us," said Johnson, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, both team highs.
"We were tired. We just got in [Friday] night, we didn't even get to shoot this morning, and half our team got lost today on the way to the gym. A lot of complications. But that's still no excuse for the way we played."