Friday, March 20, 2009

Experienced Xavier ends Vikings season: Xavier uses its size advantage in 77-59 victory over Portland State

The Portland State Vikings dance in the NCAA tournament ended in the first round for the second consecutive season in a 77-59 defeat to a physical, oversized and experienced Xavier team Friday in Boise.

Four Musketeer players scored in double digits, led by senior forward C.J. Anderson who scored ten of his 14 points in the second half.

“Xavier set the tone immediately,” said Portland State head coach Ken Bone. “They were very difficult to stop on one end and hard to get good shots off against on the other.”

PSU found themselves battling from behind early in the first half when Xavier used a 10-0 run to build a 17-7 lead.

However, the Vikings would rally behind inside baskets made by junior forward Jamie Jones and senior point guard Jeremiah Dominguez. The captain would score all of his 13 points in the first half.

Portland State rallied to take a narrow one point lead, 25-24, when senior guard Andre Murray hit a three-pointer with 8:35 remaining. The one point edge was the Vikings only lead in the game.

“The momentum was definitely turning our way when we got the lead,” Murray said. “But after that we kind of beat ourselves.”

Xavier responded with a 16-4 run that resulted in a commanding 40-29 lead. Portland State’s struggled with turnovers all game long and two consecutive giveaways by the Vikings helped Xavier regain the lead and capture the momentum on transition baskets.

The Vikings would get another taste of momentum when Murray drained another three with three seconds remaining in the first half to cut the Xavier lead to just seven points at the break, 42-35.

“Xavier played off their experience playing in the tournament,” Bone said. “They reacted right away whenever we tried to get something going and never panicked.”

In the second half the Atlantic-10 regular season conference champion Xavier used their commanding size advantage to take over the game and put away the underdog Vikings.

Xavier senior guard B.J. Raymond nailed a three-pointer, which was followed by a Derrick Brown alley-oop dunk moments later to give Xavier a 49-37 lead with less than five minutes into the second half.

Portland State never seemed to match the energy that Xavier brought to the game in the second half as the Musketeer lead reached as large as 23.

Xavier’s tenacious defense led to shutouts from two of the Portland State players that the squad had leaned heavily on during the six-game winning streak that preceded the first round game. Junior starting small forward Phil Nelson and junior reserve forward Julius Thomas were each held scoreless.

“I think that we just didn’t have the motivation at the end,” said junior forward Jamie Jones who finished with a team high 16 points. “It was just tough. A tough team, a good team.”

Even though the Vikings were outplayed by a team that on this night, looked far superior, Bone was satisfied with his team’s effort.

“I’m proud of the guys,” he said. “They left everything on the court and we just happened to run into a very good Xavier team. We did the best job we could.”

Xavier advanced to face the winner of the Florida State/Wisconsin first round game on Sunday.

posted by Tom Sedun, Vanguard staff

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