Men's basketball wins, 71-59
Musketeers knock off Troy State in first-round game of NCAA Tournament, play again Sunday
The mens basketball team took its first step toward showing where it ranks in Musketeer history on Friday night be beating the Troy State Trojans, 71-59, in the first-round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament in Nashville, Tenn. The team now faces the winner of the University of Maryland vs. University of North Carolina-Wilmington game in the tournaments second round on Sunday, March 23, at 4:30 p.m.
The biggest thing that we wanted from the game was to compete and play with great toughness, head coach Thad Matta said. I talked to the guys before the game about all of these close games in the tournament and, particularly, why there were so many close games. I didnt want them to go in with an attitude of Lets just survive and go to the next round. I wanted them to go out and really compete, and I thought we did that.
The team competed despite not shooting particularly well from the field -37 percent in the second half and 40 percent for the game -despite Troy State hitting 11 three-pointers and despite having National Player of the Year David West play just 28 minutes because of foul trouble.
West finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Romain Sato added 18 points and 11 rebounds and Lionel Chalmers pouring in a team-high 20 points, 14 of which came in the first half.
Getting the fouls threw me off a little, said West. I never got into the swing of things. But we survived and we have a chance to get after it one more time.
After taking a 15-point lead, 37-22, into the locker room at halftime, the Musketeers couldnt put away Troy State in the second half. The Trojans hit seven three-pointers in the second half and cut the lead to just eight points with 3:50 left in the game. The Musketeers did manage, though, to withstand each barrage Troy State hit them with and never let the game get out of their control.
Once we started looking at tape of Troy State, we knew we were going to have a war on our hands, said Matta. Its scary going into a game against a team that shoots three-pointers as often and as well as they do. Theyre the type of team you love to coach but hate to coach against. And down the stretch they hit some big shots, but we kept defending and kept playing basketball.
The Trojans were especially dependant upon their outside shooting, as the little-known winner of the Atlantic Sun Conference couldnt easily answer the Musketeers height advantage inside. Xavier scored 38 points from under the basket, grabbed 47 rebounds, including 17 on the offensive end, and scored 19 points on second-chance shots. That was especially evident in the first half, when Troy State managed to score on just 26.7 percent of its shots and scored just six of its 22 points from inside.
One of our strengths all year has been our ability to get second shots, said West. We took advantage of our size and got a lot of stick-backs.
The Trojans remedied whatever ailed their shooting touch during halftime, though, to keep the game tight in the second half. Unfortunately, Xavier caught whatever Troy State had, as the Musketeers made just 37 percent of their shots in the last 20 minutes. Sato made just one of eight three-point attempts. Anthony Myles made just two of 10 shots. Dedrick Finn was 0 for 5.
Thats something the team will need to remedy quickly.
We spent a lot of time studying Maryland during the off season, said Matta. UNC-Wilmington is also a great team. No matter who we play, were going to be playing a great basketball team on Sunday, theres no doubt.