St. Joe's suffers first loss

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2004

DAYTON, Ohio From perfect to pummeled.

Saint Joseph's first game as the nation's No. 1 team also was its first loss of the season, a shocking 87-67 collapse against unranked Xavier in the Atlantic-10 quarterfinals Thursday.

The Hawks came in with a 27-0 record, three victories from becoming the first team since 1991 to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated. But they trailed Xavier by as many as 37 points, and the upset raises questions about how serious a contender the tiny Philadelphia school will be for the national championship.

The rout also tarnishes a magical run by a team that was one of the biggest surprises in sports this year, and it could cost Saint Joseph's a top seeding in the NCAAs.

''I'm assuming that the televisions wherever that committee is meeting didn't work,'' Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.

''This was our 20th game away from our own fieldhouse. We're 19-1 in those games. They (the committee) will understand that. The committee will do us right because of our body of work. Not 40 minutes.''

It's the worst loss ever by a No. 1 team against an unranked team and equals the seventh-biggest loss by a top-ranked team against anyone. A partisan crowd began rubbing it in midway through the second half, chanting ''Sloppy Joe's!''

Romain Sato led Xavier with 24 points and 11 rebounds, Lionel Chalmers scored 23, and Anthony Myles had 19.

Saint Joseph's backcourt stars Jameer Nelson and Delonte West were held to a combined 11-for-35 shooting, and scored 16 points each. Xavier (21-10) made 71.1 percent of its shots, while holding Saint Joseph's to 35.4 percent its worst showing all season.

''Any loss is devastating, especially when you work so hard,'' Nelson said. ''We take pride in our defense and we let ourselves down with our defense today.''

Saint Joseph's, which took the No. 1 spot Monday after Stanford's loss to Washington, was limited to one field goal during a stretch of more than 10 minutes. And the Hawks' biggest weakness, their inside game, was exposed by the Musketeers, who outrebounded Saint Joseph's 43-18.

''They're a great team. They didn't go 27-0 for no reason. They made history,'' Chalmers said. ''They're one of the great teams in the country. They deserve a No. 1 seed.''

Chalmers added that he thought the Musketeers actually might have done the Hawks a favor.

''It might be better for them to lose early on,'' he said. ''It might help them in the tournament.''

Playing less than an hour from its campus, Xavier will face George Washington a 79-50 winner over Rhode Island in the semifinals Friday night. The Musketeers all but claimed an NCAA berth, regardless of what happens in the remainder of the conference tournament.

''Going 3-1 against the Top 25, not a lot of teams can say that,'' coach Thad Matta said. ''I believe we are one of the top 64 teams in the country.''

Xavier, ahead 74-37 with 7:56 remaining, has won 11 of its last 12 games.

''I think we're pretty good,'' Chalmers said. ''We've come a long way since early on. Right now, we're clearly one of the hottest teams in the country.''

Nelson was booed loudly after confronting Xavier's Justin Doellman in the final minutes. Nelson hit the floor hard on an attempted dunk with Doellman in his face and took several seconds to get up. When the senior guard rose, he ran to the other end and glared at Doellman while fans called for a technical.

Martelli put an arm around Nelson's neck as he spoke to him, then replaced him in the lineup.

''We tried to make it tough for Jameer and West,'' Sato said. ''The last time we played them, they made everything.''

The Musketeers who lost at home to the Hawks 81-73 in January with Nelson and West combining for 61 points scored nearly at will from the start, with Sato and Chalmers slashing to the basket.

No. 2 Stanford 68, Washington St. 47

LOS ANGELES Stanford returned to its winning ways against a team that nearly beat the Cardinal last week.

Josh Childress scored 17 points and the Cardinal (27-1) led all the way in defeating Washington State (13-16) in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament. Before Washington ended Stanford's 26-game winning streak Saturday, the Cougars put a scare into the Cardinal, who needed seven points in the final 25 seconds for the victory.

The Cardinal (27-1) advanced to Friday's semifinals against fifth-seeded Oregon, an 87-82 winner over California.

Marcus Moore scored 17 points for the Cougars.

No. 6 Pittsburgh 74, Virginia Tech 61

NEW YORK Jaron Brown scored 20 points and Pittsburgh opened its defense of the Big East tournament title with a quarterfinal victory over Virginia Tech.

Carl Krauser had 16 points for the Panthers (28-3), who will face Boston College in the semifinals. The game was the last in the Big East for Virginia Tech (15-14), which moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Boston College 57, No. 19 Syracuse 54

NEW YORK Jared Dudley made four free throws in the last 93 seconds and Boston College overcame an 11-point deficit to beat Syracuse in the Big East quarterfinals.

Craig Smith added two late free throws to help the Eagles (23-8) beat the defending national champion Orangemen (21-7). Smith led Boston College with 22 points, and Dudley and Uka Agbai had 13 each. Gerry McNamara topped Syracuse with 15.

No. 9 Connecticut 66, Notre Dame 58

NEW YORK Ben Gordon scored 29 points and Connecticut overcame star center Emeka Okafor's absence to beat Notre Dame in the Big East quarterfinals.

The second-seeded Huskies (25-6) advanced to the semifinals for the ninth straight year. They will play Villanova, which beat Providence.

Okafor did not dress for the game because of back spasms related to a small stress fracture of the fifth lumbar.

Chris Thomas had 19 points for the Fighting Irish (17-12).

No. 13 Cincinnati 64, Louisville 62

CINCINNATI Armein Kirkland's short bank shot with 16.9 seconds left lifted Cincinnati past Louisville in the Conference USA quarterfinals.

Playing in a downtown arena near campus, the Bearcats (22-6) overcame Francisco Garcia's career-high 28 points and one of the nation's stingiest defenses. Jason Maxiell led Cincinnati with 15 points, and Kirkland had 12.

Cincinnati shot 48.9 percent from the field, the best mark that Louisville (20-9) has allowed all season. The Cardinals are among the nation's best at holding down shooters.

Cincinnati will play Saint Louis in the next round.

Villanova 69, No. 20 Providence 66

NEW YORK Randy Foye led a Villanova spurt of 11 straight points down the stretch. The Wildcats (16-15) became eligible for at least an NIT bid.

Foye, who scored the winning basket against Seton Hall the night before, ignited Villanova with five straight points after Donnie McGrath's 3-pointer had given Providence (20-8) a 58-54 lead with 3:54 to play.

The loss was the third straight for Providence, which has tumbled from as high as No. 12 in the rankings.

Saint Louis 72, No. 23 Memphis 61

CINCINNATI Izik Ohanon led a late 16-2 run that sent Saint Louis (18-11) to victory. The Tigers (21-7) put up little fight down the stretch. They had plenty of trouble with the Billikens' slow pace, getting out of sync at the outset and falling apart at the end. Ohanon had eight points in the decisive spurt.

Memphis lost to Cincinnati on a last-second shot Saturday, forging a five-way tie for the title. The Tigers then got eliminated from the tournament in their first game.

Colorado St. 60, No. 25 Air Force 48

DENVER Colorado State took control with an 18-3 run to start the second half and hit 10 straight free throws in the final two minutes.

Top-seeded Air Force (22-6) entered the Top 25 this week for the first time in school history after winning its first conference title and setting a school record for wins.

The Falcons still have a good shot at going to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1962, but will have to wait to end a postseason losing streak that is now 12 games.

Air Force hasn't won a conference tournament game since 1990, when it was in the Western Athletic Conference, and is 0-5 in the Mountain West tournament.



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