No. 25 Xavier beats St. Bonaventure 93-72
CINCINNATI (AP)—The buzzer sounded, the confetti flew. Xavier was about to cut down a net again.
Old stuff? Never.
The 25th-ranked Musketeers won a share of their fourth straight Atlantic 10 regular-season title on Saturday, riding the emotion of senior day and Jordan Crawford’s 22 points to a 93-72 victory over St. Bonaventure. Then, they broke out those well-worn scissors.
“There’s a legacy to uphold,” said first-year coach Chris Mack, who used them last. “I’m glad these guys understood it as well as the past groups.”
The Musketeers (23-7, 14-2) share the title with No. 20 Temple, which beat George Washington earlier in the day. Xavier is the second team in league history to win four straight—Massachusetts got five in a row from 1992-96.
“Making history—there’s nothing like it,” said senior center Jason Love, the team’s lone player who was part of all four titles. “It’s hard to do.”
St. Bonaventure (14-15, 7-9) had been on its best streak of the season, winning four in a row. The Musketeers crushed that momentum with an opening 26-6 run. Andrew Nicholson led the Bonnies with 21 points.
“Jason Love and Jordan Crawford are two special players, and they’ve got great role guys,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. “They were so much more physical than we were, especially early.”
A shower of blue-and-white confetti fell from the rafters after reserve guard Brian Walsh dribbled out the final seconds at midcourt. Love held up a large sign listing those four straight titles, and guard Terrell Holloway carried a sign that read, “X 4 PEAT.”
Mack was last to climb the stepladder. He made the final snip that freed the net, then held it up in celebration.
Love was honored before the game and had 14 points and nine rebounds against a double-teaming defense. He got a standing ovation when he left with 2:36 to go. Xavier won 20 games with fewer than two seniors on the roster for the first time in its history.
Crawford, the league’s leading scorer, went 8 of 12 from the field and pulled off several acrobatic moves to the basket. Fans cheered “One more year!” when Crawford sliced through the defense for a finger-roll layup.
The sophomore guard had to watch the championship celebration in a sweat suit last season, when he was sitting out after transferring from Indiana. This time, he snipped a piece of net and stored it over his right ear. Asked if he thought that it might be his last game at the Cintas Center as well—he could decide to go to the NBA—Crawford said, “Naw, I didn’t think about that at all.”
The Musketeers have quite a collection of regular-season titles—eight during their 15 seasons in the Atlantic 10. This was one of the most unexpected.
With only one senior returning, the Musketeers weren’t picked to win it. They pulled it off by continuing their tradition of playing tough at home, and grew steadily as the season went along. They won 11 of their last 12 games, including a 76-64 victory at Florida.
Xavier has won all 32 of its A-10 home games since the start of the 2006-07 season, the second-longest streak in league history. Temple won 34 straight. Xavier has won 24 consecutive home games overall, tied for the third-longest active streak in Division I.
Love, a 6-foot-9 center, fought back tears when he was introduced on court before the game and received a large framed photograph of himself. He held it over his head to show the cheering crowd.
Then, the Musketeers transferred that energy into a huge early lead. With the Bonnies’ defense focused on stopping Love, Jamel McLean took advantage by getting open inside for a pair of three-point plays. He had eight points in the 26-6 surge.
Crawford hit a 3-pointer, made a pair of layups, then passed to Kenny Frease for a fastbreak dunk that put Xavier up 68-46 midway through the second half and began the countdown to the net cutting.