Men’s College Basketball: St. Xavier set for showdown vs. Cardinal Stritch
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media January 30, 2014 4:24PM
St. Xavier's Michael Simpson. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:02PM
Mount Greenwood will be the center of the NAIA basketball world Saturday as two of the top four teams in the nation in Division II square off in the NAIA National Game of the Week.
No. 4 St. Xavier (21-2, 11-1) will host top-ranked and defending national champion Cardinal Stritch (20-3, 12-0) in a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference showdown set for 3 p.m. at the Shannon Center.
“I think Stritch is playing the best they’ve played all year right now,” St. Xavier coach Tom O’Malley said. “They have a mixture of a strong inside game and a strong outside game. They’re going to be tough to stop.”
O’Malley’s charges are playing their best ball as well. The Cougars have won 19 straight games since they lost two in a row in November. The first of those defeats was an 82-74 setback to Stritch in Milwaukee. The Cougars had a poor shooting night in that contest, going 25-of-79 from the field and 2-of-16 from beyond the arc.
They also were without Jack Krieger, who’s averaging 16.6 points per game.
One key Saturday will be the play of St. Xavier point guard Michael Simpson, who scored 8.5 points per game last season for Stritch before transferring.
“The last game (against Stritch) was a little unfair for him,” O’Malley said. “They were all over him up there and he struggled (going 1-of-18 from the field). He’ll bounce back. He’s a real competitor.”
The game is part of a doubleheader as the eighth-ranked St. Xavier women’s team takes on No. 6 Stritch at 1 p.m.
After going 3-7 through its first 10 games, St. Francis is rounding into a form under first-year coach Ryan Marks.
After a couple of near upsets against ranked teams, the Saints got a defining win Wednesday night, knocking off No. 16 Robert Morris 70-67 behind 17 points from Chris Miller and 11 points and eight rebounds from Logan Timmons. They improved to 10-12 overall, 7-5 in the CCAC.
Before that, St. Francis took Stritch to overtime in Milwaukee before falling 84-78 and led St. Xavier in the second half of an 84-72 loss.
“I’m really pleased with the progress of our team,” Marks said. “Our competitive spirit continues to get better. Our idea of what we’re trying to accomplish is getting better.”
The local battle between Moraine Valley and Prairie State will have to wait a couple of weeks. The teams were set to square off Tuesday night at Moraine, but the game was canceled because of the extreme cold and rescheduled for Feb. 15.
It’s the second cold-related postponement this season for Moraine, which also had its Jan. 7 game vs. Olive-Harvey pushed back two days because of the weather.