Sunday, March 18, 2012
Frease leads Xavier past Lehigh
By Mark Schlabach
GREENSBORO, N.C. - It didn't take Xavier long to realize center Kenny Frease was the biggest man on the court in Sunday night's South Region third-round game against No. 15-seed Lehigh.
Frease, a 7-foot, 270-pound senior from Massillon, Ohio, was 3 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than any of the Mountain Hawks' post players.
"I'm just a lot bigger than those guys," Frease said.
The Musketeers kept feeding Frease the ball and he kept shooting, scoring 25 points on an 11-for-13 effort to lead No. 10-seed Xavier to a 70-58 victory at Greensboro Coliseum. Xavier advances to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time since 2008 and will play No. 3 seed Baylor in Atlanta's Georgia Dome on Friday.
"When you've got your back against the wall and it could be your last game ever, you get a little fire," Frease said. "I just got in position to score and my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball."
Frease went 6-for-6 from the floor in the first half, but the Musketeers still trailed by as many as 15 points. Xavier closed the half with a 17-8 run and scored the first seven points of the second half to take its first lead.
Xavier's Kenny Frease bullied his way through Lehigh's undersized front line for 25 points.
Over the final 10 minutes, Xavier's backcourt put the clamps on Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum, the Patriot League Player of the Year. After the Mountain Hawks tied the score at 50 on McCollum's jumper with 10:35 to play, Lehigh scored only one basket over the next 9 1/2 minutes.
McCollum, who scored 30 points in Lehigh's 75-70 upset of 2-seed Duke on Friday night, scored 14 points on 5-for-22 shooting.
"It was a team plan," said Xavier guard Tu Holloway, who marked McCollum for most of the night. "I had him one-on-one, but I just wanted the guys to be there when he went around me and came off a ball screen. He's a great player. His shots just didn't fall tonight."
McCollum had several 3-pointers rim out and never seemed to find his rhythm after missing much of the first half with two fouls.
"I'm not one to make excuses," McCollum said. "I just wasn't making shots. I'm not going to blame picking up two fouls with shooting a basketball; it has nothing to do with it. I just missed some shots tonight and offense is going to come and go. We still have to get stops on defense and we didn't do that tonight."
Lehigh was attempting to become the first 15-seed to advance to the Sweet 16. After Norfolk State lost to Florida earlier Sunday, 15-seeds fell to 0-6 when playing in their second games of the NCAA tournament.
"It's a amazing high note to be here," Lehigh guard Mackey McKnight said. "It was an amazing honor to play Duke. It's just basketball and we love it. It's a dream come true to be here. It's a dream come true to even beat Duke and to even to play Xavier and even to lose to them. I think we just enjoyed every single moment of it and we'll always remember this. We'll never forget it."
Xavier, the team college basketball seemed to forget after it was involved in an ugly fight with rival Cincinnati early December, will continue its postseason run in the Sweet 16.
"People forget we were No. 8 in the country and 9-0 (actually 8-0)," Frease said. "We all knew in our hearts that we were capable of doing it."