Monday, March 19, 2001

Xavier takes spotlight vs. Tennessee

Musketeers play 6-time champs in Sweet 16

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Reeta Piipari sparked XU's run.
(Craig Ruttle photos)
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        The Xavier women's basketball team, which advanced to its first Sweet 16 with a 77-62 victory Sunday over Clemson, will get its chance to prove it can play with the best teams in the country Saturday when it faces six-time national champion Tennessee.

        “Once we get to a national level it becomes Xavier of Ohio,” Musketeers coach Melanie Balcomb said after Sunday's game. “We're trying to change that at some point and get that respect nationally. We haven't earned it.”

        Xavier led Clemson, the region's fifth seed and ranked No. 22 in the nation, by 31 points twice in the second half. The score was 72-41 with 9:01 remaining when Taru Tuukkanen made two free throws.

        Coach Jim Davis' Tigers lost 86-58 to Tennessee at the Maui Invitational in November but trailed only 38-34 at halftime.

        “When Xavier plays (Tennessee), they've got to do a great job of penetrating from the perimeter,” Davis said. “They'll have to do a great job of breaking through on the dribble drive.”

Jennifer Phillips
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        The Lady Vols advanced to the Sweet 16 with a victory Sunday night over St. Mary's of California, but they're playing without the reigning player of the year, senior forward Tamika Catchings, who tore her ligaments in her right knee in a January game.

        “She's not there now, so they might not be as strong as they were,” Davis said.

        Like the Tennessee game, Clemson played well — for a

        while — on Sunday. The Tigers went on an 11-0 run to take an 18-13 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the first half.

        But after a timeout, the Musketeers went on a 36-9 tear to close out the half on top 49-27. It was over.

        “I'm not sure I can repeat what I said,” Balcomb said of the timeout huddle.

Nicole Levandusky
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        Point guard Reetta Piipari, one of five XU players to score in double-figures, hit a 3-point shot to start the surge.

        “It was just another shot, but it went in,” Piipari said. “I'm glad it went in.”

        Nicole Levandusky, who led the Musketeers with 19 points, added two free throws before Piipari hit two more 3s to put Xavier ahead for good.

        XU led 35-25 with 3:37 remaining in the half and went on a 14-2 run to bury the Tigers.

        After an Amy Waugh 3, Julie Aderhold scored Clemson's last points of the half on a field goal. Xavier's Kate Kreager scored on a layup. Then Waugh, Levandusky and Waugh, again, hit consecutive 3s — the last coming with six seconds remaining — to give XU its 22-point halftime lead.

        “Four in that time span was pumping us up even more and more and more,” Levandusky said of the 3s. “I was happy to see it go in. I think that boosted us.”

Amy Waugh
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        The 30-2 Musketeers showed again Sunday why they are fourth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage by making 12 of 18. They bettered their second-ranked .519 field goal percentage by going 24-for-41 from the field (.585) and were 17-for-19 on free throws. Forward Jennifer Phillips was 10-for-10 from the line, 8-for-8 in the first half.

        When the Musketeers held onto the ball, they usually made their shots. But they committed a season-high 32 turnovers. XU uncharacteristically tried to milk the clock in the second half and actually committed a shot-clock violation.

        “We usually don't turn it over 32 times,” Balcomb said. “(Clemson) did a great job with the pressure. They did a great job being physical. Those are the things we knew we had to handle. They played more physical and more pressure than we saw all year, and that's why they forced so many turnovers.”

        Xavier started the game going at the Tigers' strength, 6-foot-4 senior center Erin Batth. XU center Taru Tuukkanen, who finished with 14 points and had only seven Friday against Louisville, scored the Musketeers' first nine points against Clemson and forced Batth into fouling twice within the first four minutes.

        Batth played only six minutes in the first half and only 13 more in the second half before fouling out with eight points and six rebounds.

        Xavier won the rebounding battle 34-25, six on offense.

        Chrissy Floyd led Clemson with 24 points.

        “Xavier was very hospitable up until 1:05 today,” Clemson coach Davis said. “They are a very, very skilled team. Their game plan was to go at Erin and Nuria (Forns) and get them in foul trouble. We're very thin up there. It's no secret.”

        The Musketeers' next goal is no secret, either. They want to get to the Final Four, just like every other team in the tournament, Levandusky said.

        Asked for her reaction to playing Tennessee, Phillips, the Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year, said, “They haven't won yet.”

        The Lady Vols, a seven-time national champion, is a Sweet 16 regular. It's a first for the Musketeers, who didn't even bother to cut down the nets after Sunday's victory.

        “I didn't know it was an option,” Levandusky said.

        Said Phillips, “It crossed my mind.”

        “First time,” said Balcomb, who insisted her team wasn't supposed to beat Clemson.

        “I'm sure we'll be the underdog in the next game, too. I don't even have to look.”

SULLIVAN: Musketeers unselfish to a fault
Xavier plays defense, too
St. Mary's gives Tennessee a battle
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                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Forns           31   3-9   1-2   1-2  1  4    8
Glenney         28   1-4   2-2   3-4  4  0    4
Batth           19   3-8   2-4   3-6  1  5    8
Gaines          20   3-5   0-0   3-3  1  2    7
Floyd           34 11-20   0-0   0-2  1  1   24
Slosser         17   1-6   0-2   2-4  2  0    2
Scott           20   3-6   1-2   0-0  2  1    7
Queen           13   0-1   0-0   0-2  2  1    0
Aderhold        18   1-4   0-0   1-1  1  1    2
TOTALS         200 26-63  6-12 13-24 15 15   62

Percentages: FG-.413, FT-.500. 3-Point Goals:
4-19, .211 (Forns 1-6, Glenney 0-1, Gaines 1-3,
Floyd 2-6, Queen 0-1, Aderhold 0-2). Team
rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 19
(Batth 4, Gaines 4, Glenney 3, Aderhold 2, Floyd
2, Scott 2, Forns, Slosser). Steals: 17 (Forns 6,
Queen 3, Slosser 3, Aderhold 2, Batth 2, Gaines).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Phillips        36   1-3 10-10   0-7  3  1   12
Levandusky      31  6-12   2-2   0-4  3  3   19
Tuukkanen       22   5-9   4-5   0-5  0  3   14
Piipari         31   5-6   0-0   0-2  5  1   13
Parr            32   0-1   0-0   2-5  7  1    0
Waugh           19   4-4   1-2   0-3  2  0   13
Kreager         14   1-2   0-0   3-4  0  1    2
Hall             9   1-3   0-0   1-1  1  2    2
Bell             6   1-1   0-0   0-0  1  0    2
TOTALS         200 24-41 17-19  6-31 22 12   77

Percentages: FG-.585, FT-.895. 3-Point Goals:
12-18, .667 (Levandusky 5-10, Piipari 3-3, Parr
0-1, Waugh 4-4). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots:
1 (Tuukkanen). Turnovers: 32 (Phillips 7,
Tuukkanen 6, Levandusky 4, Parr 4, Piipari 4,
Hall 3, Waugh 2, Kreager). Steals: 4 (Levandusky,
Parr, Phillips, Tuukkanen).
Clemson            27   35  -   62
Xavier             48   29  -   77
Technical fouls: None.  A: 6,548. Officials: Lisa
Mattingly, Jerry Gibbons, John Weeks.

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- Xavier takes spotlight vs. Tennessee
SULLIVAN: Musketeers unselfish to a fault
Xavier plays defense, too
St. Mary's gives Tennessee a battle

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