March remains maddening for Musketeers

Xavier loses to Maryland, 77-64, in NCAA Tournament to end season | March 23, 2003

Plagued again by the shooting troubles that have haunted it in recent games, the men’s basketball team couldn’t overcome its inability to score against the University of Maryland on Sunday night and lost to the defending national champions, 77-64, in the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. The loss ends the Musketeers’ season and marks the final college basketball game for national player of the year David West. “For whatever reason, we weren’t sharp early,” said head coach Thad Matta. “Against a team like Maryland, you have to be clicking every second of the game. We weren’t, and they picked us apart.” The team managed just nine points in the first five minutes and then spent the next five minutes unable to score at all. By the time the first half ended, the team managed to make just eight of its 28 shots from the field and eight of its 13 free throws. Maryland, meanwhile, found scoring easy, running curls and backdoor cuts that created numerous easy baskets. The Terrapins scored 28 of its first-half points from underneath the basket while shooting 52 percent from the field. By halftime, the Terrapins' lead was 17 points, 45-28. The Musketeers mounted a sustained rally in the second half behind the play of West, closing the deficit to just three points with six minutes left in the game, but couldn’t complete the comeback beyond that margin. Maryland pushed the lead back to 10 points with 3:21 left in the game and then sealed it by making six straight free throws to end the game. “We dug ourselves a grave early,” said West. “For some reason, we let them get out and get going and we never recovered. That’s been our bullet all season. We miss a few shots and then let our struggles on offense dictate how we play defense. We fought hard in the second half, but I think our guys ran out of gas and we weren’t able to execute what we wanted to down the stretch.” West did manage to find his touch in the second half, scoring 13 of his 22 total points after halftime, helping him recover from a frustrating first half. In the first 20 minutes of the game, he made just two of his eight shots and four of his seven free throws. “I was getting good shots, five or six footers from the basket, but for some reason they weren’t going in,” he said. Unfortunately for Xavier, Maryland’s ability to score continued as well. Terrapins shot 51.7 percent from the field for the game, scoring 44 points from underneath the basket. They also dominated the boards, grabbing 39 rebounds. Xavier, meanwhile, grabbed just 28 rebounds, its lowest total this season since it grabbed 28 against Stanford University in the second game of the season. “We got beat by a very good team,” said Matta. “If Maryland is a No. 6 seed in the tournament, that says a lot about the quality of teams playing. They’re the best sixth seed I’ve seen.” The loss once again knocked the Musketeers out of the NCAA Tournament earlier than hoped for. The team has made it to the tournament 15 times and only once made it to the Sweet 16 in 1990. That isn’t what the team’s thinking about right now, though, said Matta. “Right now my biggest disappointment is not being able to go out and practice with this team again or coach this team again,” he said. “I could coach another 30 years and never coach another player of the year again or a team like this again. I feel a great deal of gratification to have been able to do that.”