Sweet success: Xavier reaches first Elite Eight
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) – Romain Sato poured in a game-high 27 points to
lead Xavier to a 79-71 victory over Texas in an Atlanta bracket regional
semifinal at the Georgia Dome.
Lionel Chalmers added 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Dedrick
Finn scored 11 for the seventh-seeded Musketeers (26-10), who advanced to
the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
Xavier, which has won nine straight games and 16 of its last 17, will play
top-seeded Duke in Sunday’s regional final. The Blue Devils defeated the
Fighting Illini on Friday night.
“I give all the credit to these players,” said Xavier head coach Thad Matta.
“They got the heart, they got the mind and they just refuse to lose.”
Brandon Mouton had 21 points and seven rebounds before fouling out for the
third-seeded Longhorns (25-8), who were unsuccessful in their bid to reach the
Final Four in two straight seasons.
“We had a goal as freshmen to win a national championship,” said Mouton. “We
pushed each other at practice every day to get better in order to reach that
goal, but we came up short.”
Brian Boddicker chipped in 11 points and P.J. Tucker had 10 points and 10
rebounds in the loss.
The Musketeers made 23-of-58 shots from the field (40 percent) and connected
on 25-of-35 from the foul line (71 percent). Texas hit on 42 percent of its
attempts (26-of-62), but just 71 percent from the charity stripe (12-of-17).
The win, along with Saint Joseph’s victory over Wake Forest on Thursday night,
marked the first time two Atlantic 10 teams have ever advanced to the Elite
Eight in the same tournament. The top-seeded Hawks will battle second-seeded
Oklahoma State in the East Rutherford bracket regional final.
“It’s great for the A-10 because we don’t get as much credit as we deserve,”
Chalmers said. “It shows how strong we are, and it shows when we were in last
place earlier in the year, that was the reason why.”
Texas trailed by three at halftime, but seized a 48-47 advantage on Mouton’s
three-pointer with 16 minutes left. The game was tied at 50 apiece moments
later, but Xavier ran off nine straight points, highlighted by five from
Sato, to make it 59-50 with 11:21 left in the game.
Anthony Myles’ putback with just under 10 minutes left extended the advantage
to 63-53, but Texas answered with seven straight points, capped by Tucker’s
layup, to pull within 63-60.
Mouton’s basket with 5:27 left in the game cut the deficit to 66-64 and after
each team scored four points, Xavier led 70-68 with just under three minutes
Dedrick Finn then made 1-of-2 from the foul line and extended the lead to
71-68 with 2:09 remaining. Texas had several chances to draw closer, but
missed on every opportunity, including twice by Jason Klotz.
Klotz ended just 1-of-10 from the floor with two points.
After a miss by Chalmers, Boddicker misfired a three-point try that would have
tied the game and Sato grabbed the rebound. Sato was fouled and he made 1-of-2
foul shots to give the Musketeers a 72-68 edge with 25.1 seconds left.
Boddicker then drained a three-pointer to cut the gap to one point with 16.8
seconds left and Sato was quickly fouled again. Sato then made both shots to
give Xavier a 74-71 edge with 16 seconds remaining.
The Longhorns had one last chance to tie, but Sydmill Harris missed a long
three-point try and Finn grabbed the rebound where he was immediately fouled
with 3.9 seconds left. On the play, Texas head coach Rick Barnes thought there
was a foul and he vehemently argued with the officials before he was
eventually given a double technical foul and ejected.
The Musketeers then sealed the win by knocking down 5-of-6 from the charity
Royal Ivey’s runner in the lane with 9:44 left in the first half gave Texas a
23-17 lead, but the Musketeers cut the deficit to three at 25-22 just under
two minutes later. However, the Longhorns then countered with five straight
points, capped by Mouton’s three-pointer, to widen the gap to 30-22.
Xavier, though, used a 10-0 surge, keyed by five points from Justin Doellman,
to claim a 32-30 advantage with 4:32 remaining in the half. Finn’s three-
pointer later in the half increased the lead to 37-34.
The Musketeers led by as many as four points in the waning moments and carried
a 44-41 lead into the locker room.
Sato scored 11 points and Doellman added 10, while Mouton netted 10 for the
Longhorns in the opening 20 minutes.