Saturday, March 18, 2000

Xavier women collapse in NCAA

Musketeers blow 12-point advantage

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Austin's Lashinda Winters wins the game with an uncontested layup with 8.5 seconds left.
(AP photos)
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        BATON ROUGE, La. — They stood frozen. Stunned. Then their heads dropped one by one.

        Nicole Levandusky's 3-point try from the left side missed as the buzzer sounded. The No. 6-seeded Xavier women had blown a 12-point lead in the final 51/2 minutes and were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the first round.

        Eleventh-seeded Stephen F. Austin won 73-72 Friday night. Just like that, the Musketeers' season ended, and the phrase on the back of their practice jerseys — unfinished business — will apply next season, as well.

        “We still have a lot to prove to a lot of people,” Levandusky said.

        Xavier did not trail in the second half until the final bas ket. It was ahead by one point, and the Ladyjacks had the ball. With the clock winding down, reserve guard Lashinda Winters took off around the right side of Xavier's defense and drove for an uncontested layup with 8.5 seconds left.

Amy Waugh saves the ball from going out of bounds.
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        “We fell apart and gave them an open cut to the basket,” XU freshman Amy Waugh said.

        The Musketeers raced down the court for a final shot. Levandusky, who had nailed five 3-pointers on the night, fired. And missed.

        “I actually did get a good look, it just didn't fall for me,” she said. “I was hitting all game. And then one of the most important shots I should've hit, I missed.”

        XU finishes 26-5 and accomplished the goal of winning the Atlantic 10 tournament championship. But they also wanted to win 27 games and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

        “Until we make it further than the second round, there is unfinished business.” junior Jennifer Phillips said.

Katie Griggs wrestles for the ball.
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        The hurt this season is different than at the end of last year when XU lost 86-84 in the final seconds to Connecticut in a near-shocking upset.

        This season, Xavier was a favorite, at least to win Friday night, and had lofty expectations.

        Coach Melanie Balcomb stood outside the locker room afterward and asked her assistants: What do I say? She opened the door and saw a lot of tears.

        “They were really devastated,” Balcomb said. “They were as shocked as I was.

        “These kids cared so much and played so hard. And you're in shock as much as they are. You know they need to hear something from you, but no matter what you say, it isn't going to make them feel better at the time.”

Melanie Balcomb works the ref.
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        The Ladyjacks attempted 26 more shots than Xavier, won the rebounding battle 30-27 and helped force 24 turnovers — tying Xavier's second-highest total for a game this season.

        Still, Xavier led 72-64 with 3:29 left after a short baseline jumper by Phillips. Stephen F. Austin scored twice in a row. It was a four-point lead wit h 1:57 to go.

        Phillips missed an open layup, but XU got the ball back on a turnover. Phillips was fouled with 59.9 seconds remaining, then missed both free throws. She had hit 5 of 6 before that.

        “I just approached it like I had the whole game,” she said. “They were important, but I don't feel it came down to that.”

        SFA's Stephanie Whitmore drilled a 3-pointer with 40.2 seconds left to cut it to 72-71. On the Musketeers' next possession, Kim Hotz tried a pass to Katie Griggs, who was cutting to the basket. The ball was deflected, and Shawnta Johnson came up with the steal for SFA with 24.5 seconds to play.

Tara Tuukkanen was held to two points.
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        “Their defense really stopped us from running the things we wanted to on offense and getting the ball inside where we wanted to go,” Balcomb said. “They're very physical and they pressure the ball very, very well.

        “I don't know if it was us getting tired (at the end) as much as them even putting it into another gear that they hadn't really shown all game.”

        Phillips led the Musketeers with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Levandusky added 17, Waugh 11 and Hotz 10.

        XU shot 54.8 percent from the field and outscored the Ladyjacks 18-0 at the foul line.

        “I just told them how proud I was of their effort,” Balcomb said. “They played hard the whole time. We didn't expect to lose like that. I know they can't think about it right now, but they had a great season, a season to be very, very proud of.”

        The game was tied at 38 early in the second half when the Musketeers scored 10 unanswered points that put them ahead 48-38 with 15:25 remaining. A 3-pointer by Levandusky made it an 11-point deficit with 12:54 left.

        SFA cut it to 55-50. Xavier built it back to 68-56 with 5:50 to play for its biggest lead.

        “To be honest with you, I thought we had the game,” Levandusky said. “The last three minutes, we just sort of fell apart and made some key turnovers. They just took it away from us, I guess you could say.”

Austin too quick for Musketeers
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                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Johnson         24  7-10   0-0   1-5  0  4   14
Whitmore        38  9-17   0-0   3-6  4  2   20
Henry           14   1-5   0-0   1-2  1  0    2
Wright          27  4-12   0-0   4-4  3  4    8
Rater           35  6-11   0-3   2-7  0  4   12
Winters         38  7-11   0-0   0-2  7  3   15
Brown           18   1-2   0-0   1-2  1  3    2
Harrison         4   0-0   0-0   1-1  0  0    0
Collins          2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
TOTALS         200 35-68   0-3 13-29 16 21   73

Percentages: FG-.515, FT-.000. 3-Point Goals: 3-12, .250 (Whitmore 2-5, Henry 0-1, Wright 0-3, Winters 1-3). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 18 (Whitmore 6, Henry 3, Winters 3, Johnson 2, Brown, Harrison, Rater, Wright). Steals: 14 (Winters 5, Johnson 3, Whitmore 3, Collins, Rater, Wright).

XAVIER (72) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Waugh 35 4-6 1-2 0-3 4 1 11 Tuukkanen 22 1-6 0-3 2-7 2 0 2 Griggs 36 1-2 6-6 2-4 5 0 9 Phillips 34 7-10 5-8 1-6 2 2 19 Levandusky 37 5-11 2-2 0-6 1 3 17 Piipari 12 1-2 2-2 0-0 1 2 4 Hotz 24 4-5 2-2 0-0 2 1 10 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 23-42 18-25 5-26 17 9 72 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.548, FT-.720. 3-Point Goals: 8-13, .615 (Waugh 2-3, Griggs 1-2, Levandusky 5-8). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 1 (Phillips). Turnovers: 24 (Levandusky 6, Waugh 6, Phillips 5, Hotz 3, Tuukkanen 2, Griggs, Piipari). Steals: 11 (Levandusky 3, Hotz 2, Phillips 2, Waugh 2, Griggs, Tuukkanen). __________________________________ Stephen Austin 36 37 - 73 Xavier 36 36 - 72 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. Officials: Eric Larson, Debbie Adams, Cameron Inouye.

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