Sunday, December 22, 1996
Xavier almost zapped
Muskies escape lowly Akron in triple overtime

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ken Harvey takes his turn trying to stop Akron's Jimmal Ball. Ball had 44 points.
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AKRON - Xavier guard Gary Lumpkin moved urgently, fighting through several people just in time to pat Akron coach Dan Hipsher on the backside as he was leaving the court. Hipsher barely noticed.

''I give them a whole lot of credit,'' Lumpkin said. ''I felt like I needed to tell him.''

When the 17th-ranked Musketeers emerged with a 113-111 victory over the 1-6 University of Akron, they were relieved, thoughtful, a little celebratory and eager to head into a four-day break.

Three overtimes had passed. One big shot after another fell. The emotional swings could have kept many a therapist in business.

The victory left Xavier players and coaches sapped of energy and shaking their heads - and happy to be 8-0.

''Finally, it's over,'' was Darnell Williams' first thought. ''You never think you could lose a game, but the way they were playing, everyone had a little doubt in their minds.''

Akron's inspiring performance was led by freshman Jimmal Ball, who not only finished with 44 points, but:

Sent the game into overtime with a layup with 28.3 seconds left in regulation;

Tied it on a hanging jumper in the paint with 1.9 seconds to go in the first overtime;

Tied it on a three-pointer with 32 seconds remaining in the second overtime;

''A lot of times I'm right in his face, right there, and he still hits it,'' Lumpkin said.

''We never found an answer to (Ball),'' Xavier coach Skip Prosser said. ''You were waiting for him to miss one of those. At money time he was terrific. You can't appreciate him on film.''

In the later stages, it turned into a showdown between Ball and XU sophomore Lenny Brown, who finished with 29 points on 11-of-26 shooting.

Brown had all seven of XU's points in the first overtime, six in the second OT and a big three-pointer that tied the game at 108 with 1:29 left.

Said Prosser: ''We don't have a go-to guy. Our success has been based on collective contributions. But I thought Lenny Brown really wanted the basketball.''

''I did want the ball,'' Brown said. ''It was up to me to make some big shots for our team.''

In the end, Xavier won it at the foul line.

A jump shot by Akron's Scott Gooden tied it at 110 with 20.4 seconds to go in the third five-minute extra period. The Musketeers beat the Zips down the floor and got the ball to Williams, who was fouled.

Though much of the crowd was standing, even the Zips kangaroo mascot was too exhausted to stand for both shots.

Williams, who scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime, made them both with 16.1 seconds left. It was 112-110.

''I felt like I wasn't doing anything to help the team,'' he said. ''The coaches were screaming at me (at halftime). I just went out and did what I had to do to help the team.''

Gooden's baseline jumper rolled off the rim and out, but George Phillips grabbed the offensive rebound for Akron and was fouled.

He made just 1-of-2 free throws with 3.5 seconds on the clock.

Xavier's James Posey was fouled after the inbounds pass, and he only made 1-of-2 foul shots.

It was 113-111, and Akron had one final chance with 1.7 seconds left after rebounding Posey's miss.

After a timeout by each team, the Zips threw the ball to their end of the court. Posey tipped it away from an Akron player but kept it in play. Gooden got off a desperation shot that went over the backboard.

''Last year in that situation, this team might've folded,'' XU junior T.J. Johnson said.

''This tells us that we can win big, and we've got the confidence to win the close ones.''

The Musketeers trailed by as many as 13 during the first half - their largest deficit of the season and only the third opponent that has had a lead against them. They fought back to within 39-33 at halftime despite their worst first half shooting of the season (30.3 percent).

Xavier started to pull away from Akron in the second half and led 76-62 with 5:45 remaining.

''When we were up 14, I thought the game was over,'' Lumpkin said. ''If we come down and take good shots, the game should be over.''

Akron closed out regulation with a 19-5 run, including the final five points on a three by Gooden and Ball's layup.

''This game will wake us up,'' said senior Sherwin Anderson. ''The guys will come back (Thursday) knowing that at anytime and at anyplace, we can lose.''

Akron lost its 28th straight game to a Division I opponent, dating back to last December.

''I never had a game like that in a real game,'' said Ball, who was coming off a 2-of-12 shooting game against Canisius. ''It was rewarding, but at the same time we feel a little as if we failed.''

XAVIER (113) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Johnson 38 2-5 3-7 3-9 1 2 7 Williams 40 7-9 3-3 2-8 3 4 19 Braggs 42 4-7 7-9 4-8 3 5 15 Lumpkin 52 8-19 6-8 1-7 6 4 26 Brown 53 11-26 2-7 3-10 3 4 29 Harvey 3 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 0 Anderson 5 0-4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Posey 42 6-14 5-8 5-14 0 4 17 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 275 38-86 26-42 18-56 17 24 113 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.442, FT-.619. 3-Point Goals: 11-32, .344 (Williams 2-4, Lumpkin 4-9, Brown 5-13, Harvey 0-2, Anderson 0-2, Posey 0-2). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 18 (Lumpkin 5, Brown 4, Anderson 2, Braggs 2, Posey 2, Williams 2, Johnson). Steals: 6 (Brown 2, Braggs, Harvey, Lumpkin, Williams).

AKRON (111) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Phillips 42 7-15 2-6 5-11 1 5 16 Moore 45 5-8 6-9 5-8 4 3 16 Hahn 39 2-4 1-1 1-12 3 5 5 Kart 25 2-10 0-0 0-4 4 3 5 Ball 50 16-30 5-6 1-3 4 2 44 Benton 12 0-1 1-3 0-1 0 1 1 Gooden 28 5-14 2-3 0-3 1 2 13 Minor 23 3-8 0-0 1-4 3 5 9 Hample 11 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 275 41-92 17-28 13-46 20 28 111 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.446, FT-.607. 3-Point Goals: 12-32, .375 (Phillips 0-2, Kart 1-5, Ball 7-14, Gooden 1-6, Minor 3-5). Team rebounds: None. Blocked shots: 4 (Ball 3, Hahn). Turnovers: 12 (Ball 3, Benton 2, Hahn 2, Kart 2, Moore). Steals: 9 (Ball 3, Minor 3, Benton, Kart, Phillips). _________________________________________________ Xavier 33 48 7 13 12 - 113 Akron 39 42 7 13 10 - 111 _________________________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 3,918. Officials: Tom Clark, Dick Honing.