Cardinals Floored By Xavier

Despite an impressive start, the Cardinals fell in the end, falling 80-70 to Xavier in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lionel Chalmers and Xavier worked their postseason magic one more time, this time finding a way to stay in the NCAA tournament.

Playing with the same poise and confidence that helped win four games in four days to capture the Atlantic 10 championship, the seventh-seeded Musketeers overcame a 14-point second half deficit Friday night to beat Louisville 80-70 in the opening round of the Atlanta Regional.

Chalmers scored 25 points and Romain Sato added 24 for Xavier, which wiped out a 53-39 deficit with a 36-10 run that broke Louisville's spirit and forced the Cardinals out of the patient game plan that helped them build an 11-point halftime lead.

Xavier (24-10) moves on to the second round for the third straight year and will face No. 2 seed Mississippi State (26-3), an 85-52 winner over Monmouth in the other Atlanta Regional game played in Orlando.

Chalmers had nine points in Xavier's decisive surge, and the Musketeers took their first lead since it was 5-4 on Dedrick Finn's four-point play that made it 62-60 with just under eight minutes to go.

Taquan Dean led 10th-seeded Louisville (20-10) with 19 points before fouling out with 3:14 left. Luke Whitehead and Francisco Garcia scored 15 apiece for the Cardinals.

Xavier has won 14 of 15 games following a 10-9 start, including a 20-point blowout of then top-ranked Saint Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino was so impressed with the Musketeers' performance in that game that he had his players watch the entire first half of the upset instead of the customary edited highlights of an opponent that could make any team look imposing.

As good as Xavier was in February and March, Louisville was the total opposite. The Cardinals won 16 straight after a season-opening loss to Iowa.

But they lost eight of 12 heading into the NCAA tournament, struggling on the road and with injuries that hindered three key players - Dean, Whitehead and Garcia, who showed Friday night how much they mean to the Cardinals' success.

Anthony Myles finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds for Xavier. Finn scored 11.


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