Saturday, March 20, 2004

XU: Musketeers fight back to advance


Backing down not an option for Musketeers

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ORLANDO, Fla. - At halftime it looked like Xavier had finished a pretty nice season. The seventh-seeded Musketeers weren't going to beat No. 10 seed Louisville in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament, but for Xavier it had been a remarkable run just getting to the Tournament after a 10-9 start.

PHOTO GALLERY
photo gallery
Photos of Xavier's win
But Xavier's seniors weren't done playing just yet. They led a stunning second-half comeback to beat Louisville 80-70 at T.D. Waterhouse Centre and stay alive in their final NCAA Tournament.

"This is one of the biggest wins we've ever had at Xavier," said XU coach Thad Matta, who won his third NCAA Tournament game at Xavier. "At halftime, I told the guys, 'you've got to make plays and we've got to defend our (butts) off..' "

Down by 14 points with 15 minutes to play, Xavier scored 19 of the next 25 points thanks to hot shooting from Lionel Chalmers and Romain Sato and aggressive interior play from Anthony Myles.

"We never gave up," Chalmers said. "I knew that if we came together, we could make things happen."

Sato hit a 3-pointer with 9:55 to play that tied the score at 58-58 after Louisville had led 53-39. Then Xavier went on a 17-5 scoring run.

Sophomore Dedrick Finn completed a critical four-point play during the run. That gave Xavier its first second-half lead, 62-60, with 7:55 to play. The Musketeers did not trail again.

"It was a huge play," Matta said. "It helped turn the momentum in our favor."

Sato finished with 24 points and Chalmers with 25. It was the first time Xavier had two players score 20 or more points in an NCAA Tournament game since 1995.

The Musketeers move on to face Mississippi State at 12:10 p.m. Sunday in the second round. Friday's win was Xavier's seventh straight and 14th in its last 15 games.

The 14-point comeback was the second-largest of the season after Xavier's 16-point comeback against Temple March 6.

"We knew we had been in that situation before," Chalmers said. "Guys did a great job of responding, and we responded all year."

As potent as Xavier's offense was in the second half, the Musketeers' (24-10) defense shut down a Louisville team that shot 48.5 percent in the first half and led 42-31 at halftime.

Louisville made just 30 percent of its second-half shots while Xavier shot 60.9 percent and made 16 of 18 free throws.

Xavier and Mississippi State know each other well.

Xavier lost 82-70 at Mississippi State Dec. 13, a game in which Xavier committed 20 turnovers.

"Right now Xavier is probably one of the best teams in the country," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said after his team beat Monmouth 85-52. "They've won 13 out of 14, beat the No. 1 seed (Saint Joseph's), had them down 36 points, so Xavier's playing awfully good."

It is the first time in 24 NCAA Tournament games that Xavier has faced a team it played in the regular season.

Mississippi State was unbeaten but unranked at the time of the teams' first meeting.

Since then, the Bulldogs rose as high as No. 4 in the polls and won the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship. The No. 2 seed is the highest in MSU history.

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E-mail ddow@enquirer.com

LouisvilleMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
Dartez19032220112
Dean3261211225119
Mohammed20160043322
Whitehead3061422402015
Garcia3551157275315
Jenkins10110100103
Gianiny0000000000
Daniels12150021003
O'Bannon20260014315
George22350061326
Totals200256310132618231070
Team rebounds - 3.

XavierMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
Chalmers3981379262525
Cage12000030320
Sato40511910822124
Doellman38032251222
Myles30714111102315
Finn312355361211
Cole10121240003
Totals200234625293915131580
Team rebounds - 3.

Louisville4228-70
Xavier3149-80
3-pointers - UL 10-32 (Dartez 0-1, Dean 6-11, Mohammed 0-3, Whitehead 1-3, Garcia 0-4, Jenkins 1-1, Daniels 1-4, O'Bannon 1-5), XU 9-18 (Chalmers 2-6, Sato 5-8, Doellman 0-2, Finn 2-2). Technicals - Xavier (team). Officials - Libby, Collins, Shows. Attendance - 15,961.




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