Sunday, March 10, 2002

Xavier wins Atlantic-10 tourney


Musketeers roll over Richmond 73-60

By Neil Schmidt nschmidt@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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David West admires the trophy along James Baronas (left) and Kevin Frey.
(AP photos)
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        PHILADELPHIA — Richmond had scored nine straight points to tie the game with seven minutes left, and the Spectrum crowd was pulling for the underdog. Xavier guard Romain Sato was on the bench with four fouls. This was a moment of doubt. Good thing XU thrives on those.

        “It's kind of been our deal all year that we term "the Xavier way,'” coach Thad Matta said. “We never give up.”

        The 24th-ranked Musketeers held the Spiders without a basket the rest of the game Saturday, winning the Atlantic 10 championship game 73-60 and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

        It was the last act in a season-long circle-the-wagons drill. Read a poor prediction? Hear from worrisome fans? Bring the huddle tighter. Hunker in the bunker.

        “Since Sept.1, no one gave us a shot,” said junior center David West, who earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award. “We had a new coach. We lost too many players. We're not big enough. All that garbage. Even after the regular season, we heard from people who said we didn't have a shot in this tournament.

        “The guys fight through that. We've been in every kind of situation this year — coming from behind, holding onto leads. We're mentally tough.”

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Richmond's Tony Dobbins passes the ball as he is covered by Keith Jackson, top, and Kevin Frey.
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        XU (25-5) was playing for the second consecutive game without junior Dave Young, out with a hairline fracture in his wrist. XU used all eight available scholarship players and placed four scorers in double figures.

        “This was about winning a championship,” XU junior guard Lionel Chalmers said. “To dominate the A-10, you've got to give respect where it's due. It's great.”

        Matta, who exceeded the 24 victories he totaled last season at Butler in his first season as a head coach, fondly recalls the mid-December crossroads.

        “We were 5-3, and there was a lot of doubt,” Matta said. “The only ones that didn't doubt were the players. It's gratifying to me, because they kept the belief. I owe them.”

        XU is 20-2 since its loss to archrival Cincinnati. Saturday was its first A-10 title since 1998, which had been its only league tournament championship in the past 11 seasons.

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Jackson protects the ball from Richmond’s Scott Ungerer.
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        Saturday's game was topsy-turvy, with 13 lead changes and four ties. XU went on a 12-0 run to take a 58-49 lead with 11 minutes remaining. Then Richmond (19-13) scored the next nine points to tie it with 7:12 left.

        Richmond's only points thereafter were two Mike Skrocki free throws with 1:08 remaining, off a technical foul called on Kevin Frey.

        Excluding those foul shots, UR went scoreless on its final 14 possessions, going 0-for-11 shooting with three turnovers and a missed free throw.

        “Their defense was great,” UR guard Reggie Brown said. “They were all over the place. It's like they knew where we were going.”

        Chalmers was the hero Saturday. At 58-58, he hit a free throw and then a 3-pointer. Soon after, he fed West for an easy shot. Chalmers totaled 19 points, six assists and three steals.

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Romain Sato wipes his face after fouling out.
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        It was a dramatic change from XU's last meeting with Richmond, when Chalmers committed a career-high eight turnovers and sat out the final five minutes of the game.

        “That game, we were behind and I was trying to make something happen, and I made mistakes,” Chalmers said. “Tonight I just did what the coaches said — got in the middle and tried to create.”

        Chalmers made five 3-pointers, but Matta praised his leadership most.

        “The No.1 thing he did was run our team,” Matta said. “They were changing defenses in transition, but he kept attacking.”

        West totaled 17 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Sato, who totaled 11 points and six rebounds, fouled out with 4:49 left and XU up just four points.

        “I'm out, and I tell the guys, "Help me out,'” Sato said. “The only way we win the game is we play defense. And we did.”


RICHMOND (60)
                           fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
M Skrocki           38   3-8   6-6   0-1   4   2   13
S Ungerer           40  6-10   0-0   0-2   6   2   15
J Collins           26   3-4   0-0   3-7   0   3    6
R Brown             38  7-20   0-0   1-6   3   1   18
J Myers             36   0-6   0-0   1-1   2   4    0
T Dobbins           11   1-2   2-3   2-4   1   1    4
P Omalley           11   2-5   0-0   0-2   0   1    4


_____________________________________________________
TOTALS             200 22-55  8-9   7-23  16  14   60
_____________________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.400, FT-.889. 3-Point Goals:
8-23, .348 (M Skrocki 1-4, S Ungerer 3-5, R 
Brown 4-9, J Myers 0-3, P Omalley 0-2). Team 
Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 2 (J Collins, T 
Dobbins). Turnovers: 11 (J Collins 3, M 
Skrocki 3, S Ungerer 3, R Brown, J Myers). 
Steals: 6 (S Ungerer 3, R Brown, T Dobbins, M
Skrocki).


XAVIER (73)


                          fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
A Brown             17   1-3   0-0   1-4   0   1    3
K Frey              37   5-7   0-0   0-5   3   2   11
D West              40   4-7  9-10  3-11   3   1   17
L Chalmers          39  6-14   2-4   0-2   6   1   19
R Sato              24   4-7   2-2   2-6   1   5   11
J Williams          17   2-5   0-0   1-2   1   0    5
A Coleman            3   0-1   0-0   0-0   0   0    0
K Jackson           23   2-4   3-3   2-4   2   1    7


_____________________________________________________
TOTALS             200 24-48 16-19  9-34  16  11   73
_____________________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.500, FT-.842. 3-Point Goals:
9-21, .429 (A Brown 1-2, K Frey 1-3, L 
Chalmers 5-10, R Sato 1-3, J Williams 1-3). 
Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 2 (D West, K
Jackson). Turnovers: 13 (L Chalmers 3, D West
3, K Jackson 3, K Frey 2, R Sato, J 
Williams). Steals: 10 (L Chalmers 3, R Sato 
2, K Jackson 2, K Frey, D West, J Williams).


-----------------------------------
RICHMOND             35  25   -  60
XAVIER               31  42   -  73
----------------------------------- 


Technical fouls: None. A: 10,111. 


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