Sunday, February 03, 2002

Beautiful rally, ugly end

Musketeers scuffle with fans, players

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        RICHMOND, Va. — Talk about fighting for your basketball lives. Xavier rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit Saturday for an improbable 67-64 victory at Richmond, then had to nearly battle its way out of the building.

        After some jubilant Musketeers defiantly crossed their arms in the shape of an “X” in front of the rowdy Richmond student section, the teams scuffled briefly in a hallway leading to the locker rooms.

        Some punches reportedly were thrown, and two Richmond players were wearing ice packs on their faces in their locker room afterward. XU players got a police escort out a back door of the Robins Center to their team bus.

        It took some of the luster off XU's stunning victory, which extended XU's winning streak to 12 games.

        “We worked too hard coming back to lose this one,” XU junior David West said. “This team has a big heart. This is one of the best games I've ever played in.”

        XU (17-3) extended its best-ever Atlantic 10 start to 9-0 and is the only unbeaten team in the league. Its winning streak, tying the second-longest run in school history, is second-longest in the nation behind Utah (13).

        The Musketeers won this one with defense. UR (11-10, 5-3 A-10) was enjoying its best shooting night of the season until the final 11 minutes, when XU held it scoreless on 16 of its final 18 possessions.

        XU trailed 60-45 at the beginning of that stretch, and outscored UR 21-2 to take a 66-62 lead with 1:14 left.

        The key run began with XU trailing 62-53 with 5:11 left. XU point guard Lionel Chalmers committed a turnover and yelled at an official, earning a technical foul that was his fourth personal.

        Freshman Jaison Williams entered the game for the first time, in relief of Chalmers. He led XU on a 13-0 run in a 3:21 span to give XU that four-point lead. Williams made both field-goal tries — a long 3-pointer and a steal/layup — and totaled three assists in that run.

        “We came up with some heart,” Williams said. “We're fighters.”

        The critical charge happened this way: a Keith Jackson 12-foot jumper, a Kevin Frey steal that led to a free throw, the Williams 3-pointer, a Jackson layup, a Jackson free throw, a West bank shot, and the Williams layup.

        UR's Scott Ungerer made a 19-foot jumper with a minute left to cut the lead to two. After Williams missed two foul shots, UR's Mike Skrocki missed a 10-foot jumper. XU's Romain Sato made one of two free throws, and Ungerer missed a long 3-point try at the buzzer.

        Then the craziness started. The teams had some animosity built in from their first meeting in Cincinnati, and they jawed at each other throughout the final 10 minutes Saturday. The Musketeers' celebration upset the crowd.

        “They were taunting our fans,” Richmond athletic director Jim Miller said. “It embarrassed me, and I hope it embarrasses the A-10, that players come in here and behave like that.”

        XU players and coaches didn't want to talk about what happened in the hallway. UR coach John Beilein did.

        “A lot of shouting and pushing broke out,” Beilein said. “I know this is certainly going to start a rivalry.”

        West and Sato led XU with 19 points apiece.

        XU is 8-1 on opponents' courts this season and has won 15 of its last 19 road games. That directly followed a stretch in which it won just six of 22 away games.

        “I kept telling the guys, even when we were down 16, "You've got to stay together,'” XU coach Thad Matta said. “And they didn't panic. Guys showed a lot of heart.”


        XU hasn't finished a season with fewer than two road losses since the mid-1930s. (Exact road records in that time weren't available, but XU's lone loss in a 9-1 campaign in 1933-34 was at home.) XU's best road mark in modern history was 10-2 in 1989-90.

Box Score

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Frey            30   1-2   1-2   0-1  1  3    3
Young           29   3-5   0-0   0-1  2  1    8
West            40  6-12  7-11  5-13  1  3   19
Chalmers        35   3-8   0-0   1-3  5  4    6
Sato            38  4-10  9-12   0-6  1  4   19
Williams         5   2-2   0-2   0-0  3  0    5
Brown            2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Jackson         21   3-5   1-4   2-2  0  0    7
TOTALS         200 22-44 18-31  8-26 13 15   67

Percentages: FG-.500, FT-.581. 3-Point Goals:
5-11, .455 (Young 2-3, Chalmers 0-1, Sato 2-6,
Williams 1-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 4
(West 3, Chalmers). Turnovers: 15 (Chalmers 8,
West 3, Brown, Frey, Sato, Young). Steals: 6
(West 2, Frey, Jackson, Williams, Young).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Skrocki         33  7-15   3-6   2-4  3  3   19
Collins         30   3-7   2-2   4-4  1  3    8
Ungerer         40   3-6   1-1   0-5  3  2    8
Myers           32   3-5   1-1   0-1  7  2    8
Brown           26   5-7   0-0   0-2  2  5   14
Dobbins         24   3-9   1-2  2-10  0  3    7
Morton           3   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Omalley         12   0-1   0-0   0-0  1  2    0
TOTALS         200 24-50  8-12  8-26 17 20   64

Percentages: FG-.480, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals:
8-18, .444 (Skrocki 2-6, Ungerer 1-4, Myers 1-2,
Brown 4-6). Team rebounds: None. Blocked shots: 2
(Collins 2). Turnovers: 14 (Dobbins 4, Ungerer 4,
Brown 3, Collins, Omalley, Skrocki). Steals: 5
(Dobbins 2, Skrocki 2, Ungerer).
Xavier             33   34  -   67
Richmond           44   20  -   64
Technical fouls: None.  A: 8,014. Officials: Rich
Sanfillipo, Joe Mingle, George Harry.

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