ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- When Xavier needs a spark, Lionel Chalmers
always seems to find a way to provide it.
The Atlantic 10 Conference tournament MVP worked his postseason
magic again Friday night, this time helping the seventh-seeded
Musketeers stay in the NCAA tournament with an 80-70 victory over
Louisville in the opening round of the Atlanta Regional.
Playing with the same poise and confidence that helped the
Musketeers win four games in four days in the A-10 tournament,
Xavier overcame a 14-point second-half deficit, with Chalmers,
Romain Sato and Anthony Myles leading the way.
"We never gave up. No matter what we were down or what we were
doing wrong, we knew that if we came together and got things
clicking we could make some things happen," Chalmers said. "We
were far from out of the game, so it was just a matter of playing
the whole 40 minutes."
Chalmers scored 25 points, and Sato added 24 for Xavier, which
wiped out a 53-39 deficit with a 36-10 run that broke Louisville's
spirit and forced the Cardinals out of the patient game plan that
helped them build an 11-point halftime lead.
Xavier (24-10) moves on to the second round for the third
straight year and will face second-seeded Mississippi State (26-3),
an 85-52 winner over Monmouth.
Mississippi State won a regular-season meeting between the
teams, 82-70 in Starkville on Dec. 13.
"Louisville came out and was playing as well as we'd seen them
play since the middle of the season, and we didn't have a lot of
answers for them," Xavier coach Thad Matta said.
"But as crazy as it sounds, I wasn't panicked at halftime
because I thought that our turnovers were what they were scoring
Chalmers had nine points in Xavier's decisive surge, and the
Musketeers took their first lead since 5-4 on Dedrick Finn's
four-point play that made it 62-60 with just under eight minutes to
Taquan Dean led 10th-seeded Louisville (20-10) with 19 points
before fouling out with 3:14 left. Luke Whitehead and Francisco
Garcia scored 15 apiece for the Cardinals, who missed 21 of 30
shots in the second half.
Despite the poor shooting, Louisville coach Rick Pitino said
breakdowns on defense hurt his team most.
"We couldn't contain them off the dribble. We tried going zone.
They were just a better basketball team. They were superior,"
"We couldn't keep Chalmers out of the middle. Great players
play in the middle. Weak players go to the sidelines. They were
able to play in the middle of the floor."
Xavier has won 14 of 15 games following a 10-9 start, including
a 20-point blowout of then top-ranked Saint Joseph's in the
Atlantic 10 tournament.
Pitino was so impressed with the Musketeers' performance in that
game that he had his players watch the entire first half of the
upset instead of the customary edited highlights of an opponent
that could make any team look imposing.
As good as Xavier was in February and March, Louisville was the
total opposite. The Cardinals won 16 straight after a
season-opening loss to Iowa.
But they lost eight of 12 heading into the NCAA tournament,
struggling on the road and with injuries that hindered three key
players -- Dean, Whitehead and Garcia, who demonstrated Friday night
how much they mean to the Cardinals when they're healthy.
Myles finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds for Xavier. Finn