Thursday, March 6, 2003

Xavier living on the edge

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA - Xavier better save some of its last-minute heroics for March Madness.

For the fourth straight game, the 11th-ranked Musketeers needed a big shot in the final seconds of regulation to win.

"In this environment and as good as Saint Joe's is, we could've folded, but the guys played hard and made plays," Xavier coach Thad Matta said after Wednesday night's 88-80 overtime victory over St. Joseph's.

Xavier won two of its previous three games in the final seconds, and needed a tip-in at the buzzer to set up a two-point overtime victory against lowly Duquesne last Wednesday. The Musketeers haven't lost since Richmond beat them 67-59 on Jan. 7.

"Being able to pull these games out will only help us," said David West, who scored 10 of his 25 points in overtime.

Jameer Nelson scored 33 points and Tyrone Barley added 14 for Saint Joseph's (21-5, 11-4). It was the first home loss of the season for the Hawks, who had won three straight and seven of eight overall.

The Hawks were without leading scorer Delonte West, out with a foot injury. West, averaging 18.5 points per game, missed one game with a stress fracture in his right foot, but returned to play two games before reinjuring his foot last Saturday.

With West sidelined, Nelson assumed the scoring duties for Saint Joseph's. Though he started at point guard, Nelson played off the ball most of the game, and finished 13-of-34 from the field, including 6-of-15 from 3-point range.

"I don't think I ever took 34 shots in a practice, but I did what I had to do," Nelson said. "I was a little fatigued in the second half, but this was a big-time game. I didn't want to let my team down."

Saint Joseph's had a chance to win it in regulation, but Nelson lost his dribble then missed a desperation shot from halfcourt at the buzzer.

"That's two quality teams out there," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "Everybody on our team contributed and we got maximum effort."

Martelli might have said the same thing about his fans. They threw towels and at least one bottle onto the court in the final seconds, drawing a technical foul.

"I knew we were in trouble when our bus pulled up and they told us we had to go in from the back door," Matta said, joking.

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