A mere four nights after the Xavier men's basketball team lost a Sweet 16 thriller in double overtime to Kansas State, the school's women's basketball team set a new standard for heartbreak.
Xavier senior Dee Dee Jernigan missed not one, but two wide-open uncontested layups in the final 16 seconds of a tie game against top-seeded Stanford, either one of which would have put the Musketeers in position to advance to their first Final Four. Instead Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen made Xavier pay, driving the length of the floor in 4.4 seconds for the game-winning layup to give the Cardinal a 55-53 victory in the Sacramento Regional final for a third straight trip to the Final Four.
If Darius Washington's blown free throws that cost Memphis an NCAA tournament berth evoked our sympathy after the 2005 Conference USA title game, this was the women's basketball equivalent, only worse. Never before had Xavier been closer to joining women's basketball's upper crust, having rallied from a pair of seven-point second-half deficits to tie a Stanford team expected to challenge undefeated UConn for the national title.
Jernigan got free on Xavier's final possession when Stanford lost sight of her after she inbounded the ball from mid-court with 20 seconds remaining. She drifted to the left block, caught a pass from Amber Harris with nobody around her and somehow missed the layup off glass and the right side of the rim. Then after Stanford once again failed to account for her following the scramble for the loose ball, Jernigan caught another pass from Harris underneath the rim, again tried the glass and again had the layup rim out as if supernatural forces were guarding the rim.
Even before Pohlen's game-winner, Jernigan had to be consoled by an assistant coach during a timeout, tears running down her face a la Gonzaga's Adam Morrison in the 2006 Sweet 16 against UCLA.
For Morrison, that was a tough loss. For Jernigan, this was a nightmare you wouldn't wish on anyone.