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.
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.
Team rebounds - 3.
Team rebounds - 3.
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.
NCAA TOURNAMENT (Special section)
XU: Musketeers fight back to advance
Patient Sato picks his spots, hits his shots
UC: Bobbitt hits game-winner
Daugherty: Little guy not so little in Tourney
ETSU's Smith plays big
Hicks gets job done as Bearcats' stealth sub
UK: 'Cats pull away in 2nd half to win
Hayes just misses triple-double
Murray St. gets taste of Illini's Big Ten
Cowboys get Sutton's angry halftime message
Wolfpack uses defense to subdue Ragin' Cajuns
Pacific waves goodbye to 5th seed Providence
Maryland sets sights on 'Cuse's sharpshooter
Calhoun could do without matchup
NCAA Tournament at a glance
It's not exactly home, but it's close for the Buckeyes
Tournament chase is all about class
Team by team in the women's field
WNIT: Scoring drought ends MU's season
Victory sends Wilmington to title game
REDS / BASEBALL
Reds pitcher lost for season
2003 Reds finances may have finished in the black
Inside Reds camp
Lidle in Opening Day hunt
Aching Nixon, Garciaparra out of action for Red Sox
BENGALS / NFL
Bengals, Sapp close in on deal
It's official: Keyshawn, Parcells reunited
MND plays nation's top-ranked team for state title
C-J storms into Division I title game
Colonels discover that the 3 is king
Royals win one for the ages
Mason Co. pushed to the 3-OT brink
Prep sports results, schedules
Silver Minister, Bejarano aim to play spoiler
MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Maruyama moves ahead
Sports this weekend on TV, radio
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