Great Games in Xavier History: v West Virginia, 3/27/08 Sweet 16

There are few things in the summer that can fill the need for the average college basketball junkie. Olympic basketball doesn't fit the bill, AAU and summer leagues promise only inferior ball and frustration for anyone looking for a real game, and recruiting news can be a bit dry. There really is no way to get that next bump before the ball officially is tipped in November.

Frequently, this turns to discussions of either baseball (not much for an Indians fan this year), or games of yesteryear. To that end, we've decided to recap some games that were played before Banners on the Parkway hit the internet. We will fire up the proverbial time machine and write as if the games have just been played. Some games you will remember, some you may not. Either way though, it will be as close as you get to reading about a real game before the boys in the home white jog back onto the courts of the autumn.

Game Recap 2008 Sweet 16: Xavier 79-75 West Virginia (OT)

Xavier entered this game the nominal favorite. As March drags on though, things like that seem to matter less and less. There was, then, very slim comfort in the 32-25 lead the Musketeers carried to the half over Big East power West Virginia. Musketeer fans probably felt more trepidation than comfort, for reasons that became very evident as the game wore on. When the dust settled it was a game no one will likely ever forget and a hero that came alive at just the right to calm Xavier hearts.

All that was in the future when Josh Duncan opened the scoring with the first of Xavier's 11 three pointers. Five minutes later, Xavier entered the first tv timeout with 10-2 lead and Derrick Brown having already scored five. The talented swing man showcased his varied ability by converting two free throws after being fouled on a drive, and then stepping outside to bury a three. At the 13:35 mark the pace had slowed, but the Musketeers were up nine. One minute later, they led by 14. Chest bumps and high fives were the order of the day and the inevitable meeting with the UCLA Bruins was already on the tongues of XU fans everywhere.

Bob Huggins doesn't coach teams that quit though, and this Mountaineer squad is no exception. By slowing the pace with their particular style (read: ugly) of basketball they began to chip away the lead. The 16 point advantage that the Musketeers held at the 10:06 mark seemed like a distant memory as West Virginia, led by Wellington Smith, went on a 15-6 run to end the half. Drew Lavender wasn't letting a bad shooting night (he finished 3-11) keep him from trying. The confidence that was so evident just minutes ago was gone. West Virginia was back in the game, and back in with a vengeance.

By the 18:10 mark in the second half it was a three point game and everyone knew what kind of night we were in for. The two teams traded punches, and 4-0 runs, until the Mountaineers finally scrapped their way into a 51-50 lead courtesy of Da'Sean Butler's reverse layup with under ten minutes to play. Xavier answered immediately through a nearly unstoppable Josh Duncan, and on the back and forth went.

Things looked their most grim when Alex Ruoff pushed the West Virginia lead to 62-59 with barely more than two minutes to play. After leading by as many as 18 in the first half, Xavier was running the risk of getting into foul and hope for the best territory. A Josh Duncan 5-0 spurt pushed Xavier back in front before Joe Alexander scored. Unfortunately, Alexander didn't just score, he scored and was fouled by an over-exuberantly contesting Jason Love. Thankfully, and in something of a foreshadowing, Alexander missed. A mad scramble led to a miss by Lavender and it was time for OT.

Two minutes into overtime and Xavier was finally on the ropes. Alex Ruoff had just staked West Virginia to a six point lead and two CJ Anderson had led to three West Virginia converted free throws. BJ Raymond finally scored on the drive and Stan Burrell followed on the next possession to pull Xavier within two. Sandwiched in between those baskets were two missed free throws by Huggins' boys. Joe Mazzula, detestable as ever, made one of two free throws before Drew Lavender buried his third three of the night pull the game even at 72 with 2:03 to play. The stage was set.

BJ Raymond hadn't scored all game until his layup in overtime. His only two shots had been errant and, in true BJ fashion, he wasn't exactly dominating the glass. In OT however, he came alive. A Joe Mazzula bucket pushed the West Va lead back to two before Xavier's undersized point guard found Raymond open for his first three of the game. Defense forced a turnover and then a huge offensive rebound gave Xavier the ball and a one point lead with thirty seconds to play and two seconds on the shot clock.

With West Virginia (and most of the country, probably) expecting the ball to go into Josh Duncan, Coach Sean Miller saw his chance to go for the kill. With the ball being played in from deep in front of the left corner by Burrell, Coach Miller ran Duncan high as a decoy. Drew Lavender lined up just a couple of steps closer to the basket than Duncan and did his level best to look non-threatening. BJ Raymond stood alone, on the opposite block and completely isolated. As the play swung into action he looked toward the top of the key to screen for Duncan. Duncan raced to the hoop off the backscreen that Raymond set.

For just a second it looked as if Bill Raftery would be right. Duncan was heading for the rim and Stan Burrell seemed coiled, waiting to throw the lob. In that moment, West Virginia took the bait. Raymond's man frantically chased Duncan as Duncan's own man came off Raymond. BJ drifted aimlessly just long enough to let his man clear and then cut for the three point line, signaling with all the fervency of a drowning man trying to signal a passing boat. The ball arrived on a perfect arc, BJ set his feet, took his time, and shot himself into Xavier folklore.

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