Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Daugherty: Chalmers delivers in the clutch


A big-time game calls for big-time players

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He's one of those guys that has you pulling your hair out one minute, then wishing you hadn't the next. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Chalmers.

Stop dribbling the basketball so much, Lionel. Stop taking those ridiculous shots.

That 18-footer, off one foot, stepping back, fading away, with 27 seconds to play and the gym sounding like a freight train in the family room? What are you doing?

"A lot of courage," Chalmers decided. That's what it took to take that shot, in this game. This is what he believed, and it was hard to argue. "If I don't make it, it's back to, 'They couldn't make the big shot down the stretch,' " Chalmers said.

PHOTO GALLERY

18 Photos of the Shootout
He made it. Did we mention that? Lionel Chalmers, Xavier's fifth-year senior, who has made a career of making you grimace and laugh, sometimes at once, made the shot. The Musketeers beat Cincinnati 71-69, one more time when they weren't supposed to, and maybe now, as Chalmers allowed, "I'll get some love" from the public.

The game never fails to beat the hype, does it? It might be the one sporting event anywhere that does.

The Crosstown Shootout has had its share of grudges and smudges. No one comes away indifferent. It's always something. This year, it was the conduct of the Xavier student section. Two years ago, they behaved like frat brothers on Hell Night, according to UC coach Bob Huggins.

Whatever. The game overcame the buildup nonsense. "One of the best college basketball games I've ever been a part of," Xavier coach Thad Matta said.

Until it settled into its familiar furious pace, it was two different games. Early on, the Bearcats whapped the Muskies into a standing-eight count. With seven minutes left in the half, UC led 25-14. In no particular order, Jason Maxiell scored twice from practically inside the rim, Kareem Johnson air-mailed an 8-foot half-hook over Anthony Myles and Eric Hicks blocked a Romain Sato dunk attempt.

At 25-14, the refs led the Bearcats to a neutral corner.

Then something happened. In this game, something always does. Maxiell went out with his second foul and the Bearcats stopped slugging. Xavier went on a 21-5 run inspired by Sato and Chalmers, two seniors who know what the game means.

Chalmers was especially active, banging in two 3s from the key and finishing the half with a short fadeaway jumper that banked in at the buzzer. After being mugged for 13 minutes, Xavier led by five at half.

In the second half, the lead belonged to whoever was hot at the moment. It was obvious nothing would be decided until the buzzer. Maxiell hit two free throws with 56.5 seconds left and UC led 69-68. Then came Chalmers.

"I understood what it took," he said. He was limping, having landed wrong on his ankle with four minutes to play. He was feeling no pain, though. "I've taken some hits this year, but I'm my own worst critic.

"I kept coming back today. I missed some shots early, but I kept coming back. That's what you have to do in this game."

Meanwhile, once the Bearcats get past this Xavier headache, they'll see a once-formidable season in freefall. They have bigger problems than losing to the Musketeers. UC has lost three of five and hasn't found a point guard.

Nick Williams made four of six 3-pointers. He also sailed a pass over Jason Maxiell's head and out of bounds on UC's last possession.

Their half-court defense is an eyesore. When the defense isn't grinding, the offense grinds to a crawl. Eric Hicks, UC's warrior forward, had nine rebounds and a monstrous eight blocks. At the end, he pulled the front of his shirt up over his head for a few seconds. Sometimes, center stage can be the loneliest place.

Not for Lionel Chalmers. Not on this night. "That's the way I wanted to go out," he said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Chalmers in Shootout

Lionel Chalmers' statistics in four Crosstown Shootouts:

Year FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA Pts
2003-04 8-16 3-6 20
2002-03 2-7 1-5 5
2001-02 8-16 3-6 19
2000-01 1-4 0-2 2
Totals 19-43 7-19 46
Free throw totals: 1-6. Assists: 8. Turnovers: 7.

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E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




2004 CROSSTOWN SHOOTOUT
Xavier shocks UC
18 Photos of the Shootout
Daugherty: Chalmers delivers in the clutch
Bearcats throw away 11-point lead
Hicks' effort not enough
Musketeers come through this time
XU students 'politely' mock UC, Huggins

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