Xavier has focus, easy win over Troy

A-10 tournament loss sparks Musketeers, 71-59

South Regional

Ncaa Tournament Basketball

March 22, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - How good was Xavier last night?

Well enough to have All-American David West on the bench for 11 minutes in the first half, and still be able to put between distance between itself and Troy State, which the Musketeers beat, 71-59, in the first round of the NCAA tournament's South Regional at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

Xavier (26-5) now will take on the defending champion Maryland Terrapins, who eked out a 75-73 victory over UNC-Wilmington last night with a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Musketeers are making their third straight NCAA tournament appearance and the 14th in the past 21 years, but they haven't been to the Sweet 16 since 1990.

The Cincinnati Jesuit school's pedigree is superior to that of Troy State, an Alabama college in its 10th Division I season but its first NCAA appearance on the basis of its Atlantic Sun Conference tournament title.

That gulf became clear in the 10th minute, when West sat down with his second foul. Xavier shrugged and responded with a 13-3 run that extended its lead to 29-15. The difference reached 42-22 in the second half.

Junior guard Greg Davis, who scored 17 of his 20 points after the break - when Troy State (26-6) made seven of its 11 three-pointers - led a rally that got the Trojans to within 59-50 with 5:32 left and 62-54 with 2:49 remaining, but they got no closer.

Xavier proved that its talent is not limited to West, the 6-foot-9 senior forward who has been honored as National Player of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Lionel Chalmers, a 6-foot senior point guard, had 14 of his 20 points in the first half. Romain Sato, a 6-5 wing from the Central African Republic, finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

West, who struggled to get shots against a collapsing zone, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

"It's been a theme all year, when teams zone us is when I struggle the most," West said. "Lionel and Romain are capable of taking over games. Other guys on this team are going to step up and make shots."

With Dayton, a fourth seed, and St. Joseph's losing in the first round, the tournament was not unfolding well for the Atlantic 10 until Xavier bolted out of the blocks. The Musketeers were ready after having their school-record 16-game winning streak stopped by Temple in the semifinals of the A-10 tournament.

"That loss refocused us," coach Thad Matta said. "The biggest thing we wanted out of this game was to play with great toughness."

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