By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
This is the game George Washington hoped it would get since March 1. That was the day David West's fortuitous tip-in extended Xavier's winning streak and left Karl Hobbs' GW players in anguish as they left Cintas Center with a 71-70 loss.
George Washington (12-16) gets its chance at revenge at noon Thursday when the teams face each other in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals in Dayton. Xavier players who celebrated the last-second victory while stunned George Washington players flopped to the floor in disbelief haven't forgotten the near upset almost two weeks ago.
"That shows how badly they wanted to win, and how badly they wanted to beat us," said Xavier point guard Dedrick Finn. "So we've got to keep that on our minds just as much as they keep playing us on their minds."
George Washington got to this point by defeating Massachusetts 85-74 Monday at UMass in the first round of the tournament. It was a victory that seemed unlikely to happen in January when the Colonials began the A-10 season with five straight losses. But three wins in its last six regular-season games showed that George Washington was better than its early record indicated. Taking Xavier all the way to the final tenth of a second at Cintas Center was even more proof that this could be a dangerous team in the tournament.
An athletic arsenal of big men including freshmen Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Mike Hall has meshed well lately with the school's all-time leading scorer, senior guard Chris Monroe, who scored his 2,227th point Monday against Massachusetts.
Tenth-ranked Xavier has held Monroe below his 20.2-point scoring average in two prior games this season, both XU wins. But Monroe was crucial in the last game when he scored six of GW's last nine points and hit a go-ahead jumper with 11 seconds left before West won the game on a tip-in.
"They felt as though they had us in the last game, and that last-second tip really crushed them at the end," XU's Anthony Myles said.
The win against GW was Xavier's 13th in a row, a streak that has increased to 15 straight, equaling the school record. Getting No. 13 should not have been so difficult as far as Xavier is concerned.
"I think we need to play with some revenge also," Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "We didn't play well (March 1). And they had a lot to do with that. We have to make sure that we come out and we are ready to play."
George Washington made several plays off the dribble during its second-half comeback. In two games, sophomore guard T.J. Thompson has given the Musketeers (24-4) plenty of problems, averaging 15.0 points and 4.5 assists against Xavier.
"On the perimeter, they've got five guys that can drive the ball," West said. "So you have to be ready to guard. We have to play harder. We didn't play hard and didn't compete with any energy (March 1)."
The game came in the middle of a four-game stretch when Xavier won by either one point or in overtime each game.
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