Cornell's Chris Wroblewski looks to pass during the Big Red's win over Temple.
Rebounds: It's hard to win without them. Xavier had 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, 10 more than the Gophers, and the only thing that prevented Xavier from getting more easy put-backs was Minnesota's smothering interior defense, which registered a whopping 10 blocks in the first. The Gophers did a good job pushing Xavier away from the basket in the first half, and the Musketeers' 20 percent 3-point field goal percentage helped keep the game close.
Those margins caught up with Minnesota in the second half. Xavier started making shots, forcing Minnesota to stretch its defense, especially in the secondary break, which in turn gave Xavier better chances to get at the rim. The Gophers 3s weren't falling, and Tubby Smith's team fell off the pace in the second half. By then, Minnesota had caught up on the boards. But it was too late.
Indiana fans, eat your downtrodden hearts out. A day after former Hoosiers Armon Bassett and Ben Allen both registered upset first-round tournament wins with their post-Indiana teams (Ohio and St. Mary's, respectively), former Bloomington cohort Jordan Crawford added his name to the list of players Indiana fans sure wish hadn't transferred following the Kelvin Sampson fracas. Crawford is a much different, better player than he was earlier in his career. It shows. The guard gets to the rim at will and finishes with flair. He sinks 3-pointers from anywhere on the court. He draws defenders with jump stops and flicks perfect passes to open teammates. When Crawford sits, the Xavier offense stalls; when he's on the court, it's very difficult to keep the ball out of the hoop. Crawford finished with 28 points in the win -- and a whole bunch of "oohs" and "ahhs", too.
For a team not especially known for its defense, the Musketeers put on an impressive performance Friday. In the first half, they made Minnesota uncomfortable with slaps and deflections. In the second half, they clamped down on the Gophers' half-court sets, closing off the pick-and-roll action that had been Minnesota's most effective weapon in the first 20. Minnesota started launching 3s, they didn't fall, and that was that.
Minnesota guard Lawrence Westbrook seemed to float a bit in the second half. After scoring 15 points in the first 20 minutes, Westbrook got a mere four in the final 20. He also had a couple of conversations with referees, and was even caught looking at the crowd when he was supposed to be receiving a pass on the wing. Not Westbrook's best closing stretch, to say the least.
More from Xavier-Minnesota after coaches and players address the media.