By Jim Bransfield
MIDDLETOWN >> There is a tendency for many to believe that undefeated Fairfield Prep is what it is mainly because of 7-2 center Pascal Chukwu.
That belief would be wrong.
With three players scoring in double figures and by shooting a scorching 55 percent from the field, No. 1 ranked Prep beat Xavier 78-63 in front of a roaring crowd of 600 plus in a Southern Connecticut Conference Quinnipiac Division game at the Art Kohs Gym at Xavier Tuesday night.
“They are much more than Chukwu,” said Xavier coach Mike Kohs. “They have a great point guard and great shooters. And, they are playing without two of their top six players, one who is out with an ankle sprain and the other with an illness. They are that good without two of their best kids.”
Point guard Keith Pettway torched Xavier with 21 points on drive after drive, and when he didn’t score, Chukwu cleaned up with 20 points, 14 of them on slam dunks.
“Chukwu passes very well for a big guy,” said Kohs.”You have to pick your poison with them. If you try and defend the big kid, he passes back out and they rain threes on you. Hey, they have five kids who average 13 to 18 points, which makes them very tough.”
Xavier started well, jumping out to a an early lead and led 13-12 with two minutes left in the first quarter. Then the roof fell in.
Prep went on a 14-0 run to lead 26-13, a run capped by a Dave Zielinski three-pointer with 6:45 to play in the second. The Jesuits kept pouring it on and led 38-18 with two and a half minutes left in the first half. Do the math and that’s a 26-5 run.
“I thought we played OK,” said Prep coach Leo Redgate.”I was very pleased with our defensive intensity and I thought we shared the ball very well offensively. We knew it would be a hostile, noisy environment and I’m glad Xavier got to play in front of such a great crowd.
“But that is what we have to get used to as the season goes on. We will be playing tight games in front of hostile crowds, so this was good for us.”
Prep (17-0) led 44-28 at the half. Pettway had 12 and Chukwu had 11 at the break, while Xavier’s Thomas Jackson, who finished with 20 points, had 10 at intermission.
The winners widened the margin to 61-36 after three and led by as many as 30 in the second half before Xavier had a big fourth quarter that made the score much closer than the game really was.
“A key was our ability to adapt,” said Redgate. “Once we saw what they were doing, we let Pettway go. If they take away the post, then we have other answers. Keith had an opportunity and he stepped up. We were intense the whole game.”
Kohs said that the second quarter was the ball game.
“We got off to a decent start,” he said. “Then we had those dry spells, especially in the second quarter. Also, one of our goals was to stop Pettway from penetrating and we weren’t able to do that.”
Xavier was 22-for-57 from the floor for 39 percent. The Falcons (12-5) were outrebounded 20-14. Besides Jackson’s 20, Elijah Pemberton had 18 points and Brandon
MacPherson had 11.
Xavier is home Friday night with Hand of Madison.