Sunday, March 25, 2001

Hold your applause: Xavier has higher goal


Tennessee down, Purdue to go to reach Final Four

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Taru Tuukkanen (5) and Nicole Levandusky (40) high-five the Musketeer mascot.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Xavier's celebration after beating national power Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 Saturday didn't match the magnitude of the victory.

Photo gallery
Game story
        Senior guard Nicole Levandusky, who dribbled out most of the final seconds, heaved the ball in the air. Her teammates rushed from the bench. They hugged and hopped around for only a few seconds before running off the court.

        The 80-65 win was the most important in team history, sending Xavier to its first Elite Eight. But the atmosphere in the locker room was businesslike.

        “It wasn't crazy at all,” XU coach Melanie Balcomb said. “They know they now have another game. They are happy and very excited, but they don't want this to be over.”

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Xavier bench cheers in the closing moments. From left: Coach Melanie Balcomb, assistant Kristen Schneider, Jennifer Parr, assistant Toby Metoyer and Kate Kreager.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        The 31-2 Musketeers will play Purdue at 8:07 p.m. Monday (ESPN2) for a Final Four berth in St. Louis. The Xavier players' reaction was further tempered by the knee injury suffered by senior Jennifer Phillips.

        Phillips, who had 17 points and five rebounds, is the team's emotional leader. She fell after a tangle under the Tennessee basket with about four minutes remaining and was helped off the court, but did return. She was taken for a precautionary MRI after the game, but is expected to play Monday night.

        Purdue was not so lucky. Its starting point guard, freshman Erika Valek, tore ligaments in her knee Saturday and will not play against Xavier. She was averaging 6.2 points and 2.9 rebounds.

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Shavon Bell jumped into the arms of Erin Hall.
(AP photo)
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        “Our team respects Xavier,” Purdue coach Kristin Curry said after defeating Texas Tech 74-72 in the other semifinal game Saturday. “Any time you win (21) games in a row and start four seniors, you've earned respect.”

        The Tennessee victory was about national respect for Xavier, which often is referred to as “Xavier of Ohio” at tournament time. Even the ESPN broadcast team was guilty of saying “Eggs-avier” on Saturday.

        “That's OK,” Balcomb said. “I don't care what national people think. I don't care what local people think. I'm just proud of our team.”

NCAA Tournament coverage at Cincinnati.com



Xavier Stories
- Hold the applause: Xavier has higher goal
Photo gallery
Xavier 80, Tennessee 65
Phillips expects to play despite injury
Xavier beats Tennessee with secret weapon
Waugh provides spark off bench
Future bright for balanced Muskies
Tennessee players in shock
Purdue 74, Texas Tech 72
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