Live Blog: NCAA Tournament: (11) Gophers v. (6) Xavier

Marco LaNave

MILWAUKEE – The Gophers are making their second-straight appearance in the NCAA tournament under head coach Tubby Smith.

Xavier makes its fifth consecutive appearance in the Big Dance and its first under first-year head coach Chris Mack.

Final – The Gophers were plagued by poor second-half shooting and couldn’t find the clutch play they had at the Big Ten tournament on either end of the floor. Crawford, with 28 points, and Westbrook, with 19, were the only players who scored in double figures. Xavier shot 56 percent in the second half, while Minnesota shot just 27 percent, including 2-of-15 from 3-point range. The Musketeers out-rebounded the Gophers 50-41 and scored 20 points off of 20 offensive rebounds. XAVIER 65, GOPHERS 54.

3:26 2nd – Minnesota has come back from a lot this season but hasn’t had many come-from-behind victories like today’s game will now require. Xavier has turned the ball over on the last two possessions, but the Gophers have to find a way to make a shot. XAVIER 57, GOPHERS 47.

7:22 2nd – The Gophers are trying to find a way back into this game, but they’ve missed a 3-point attempt on each of their last three possessions. They’ve shot just 33 percent this half, while the Musketeers have shot 58 percent. XAVIER 52, GOPHERS 44.

11:21 2nd – Minnesota is fighting to keep Xavier from pulling away. After a five-point possession by the Gophers to close the lead to one, the Musketeers scored seven straight, including two layups by Crawford, who now has 22. Senior guard Devron Bostick hit a 3-pointer to keep the Gophers close, but they’ll need more to stay in this game, as Westbrook just went to the bench with his third personal foul. XAVIER 47, GOPHERS 42.

15:20 2nd – The Musketeers have finally started shooting, making six of their first eight field goals in the second half. After Minnesota took a 30-29 lead on two layups by Johnson, Xavier answered with an 11-5 run. Joseph just answered a 3-pointer by Crawford, who has scored 18, with a layup and will shoot a free throw after the timeout. XAVIER 40, GOPHERS 36.

Halftime – The Gophers just fought off the Musketeers in a critical stretch. With Sampson, Iverson and Johnson on the bench, a lineup of four Gophers guards and Carter more than kept the game from getting away. Love committed his first two fouls less than a minute after making two free throws to extend Xavier’s lead to 22-19. Westbrook, who leads all players with 15 points, tied it on a 3-pointer with 33 seconds to play in the half. The Gophers defense forced a bad shot by Musketeers guard Mark Lyons at the buzzer. Xavier finished the half shooting 21 percent (9-of-42) but out-rebounded the Gophers 30-22. The Musketeers have scored 15 second-chance points (what will Smith tell his team about that?) Minnesota shot 36 percent, but made just 1-of-4 free throws and committed five turnovers. GOPHERS 26, XAVIER 26.

3:33 1st – Though Sampson and Iverson have played well on defense, Xavier’s continual attack inside is starting to give Minnesota some trouble. Sampson just picked up his second foul a moment ago, and he joins Iverson and Johnson with that many as well. Iverson missed a pair of free throws that would have give the Gophers the lead about a minute ago, but Crawford, who leads his team with nine points, made 1-of-2 on his subsequent chance to give the Musketeers the slim lead. XAVIER 20, GOPHERS 19.

7:48 1st – The Gophers just answered the Musketeers’ nine-point run with one of their own. Westbrook has scored seven of those points, and Smith’s addition of Iverson along with Sampson on the floor has helped the post defense considerably. GOPHERS 17, XAVIER 15.

11:25 1st – Xavier has started to settle in, scoring the last five points. The Musketeers’ big men McLean and Love are going to be a challenge all day for the Minnesota defense. Sophomore center Colton Iverson has the size to match up with them, but Johnson and junior forward Paul Carter are giving up decent bulk to their Xavier counterparts. Crawford, who averages nearly 20 points per game, hasn’t gotten going yet, but if and when he does, it will be another challenge for Minnesota. XAVIER 11, GOPHERS 8.

15:50 1st – The initial adrenaline rush is quite apparent in a fast-paced, up-and-down-the-court start. The team that can keep this pace the longest will have an early advantage. Sampson has a basket, and Joseph and Hoffarber each have 3-pointers for Minnesota. GOPHERS 8, XAVIER 6.

The Gophers sported a new version of the “Respect” shirt. This one was maroon with “Respect” in gold on the back.

Starting Lineups:

Minnesota Gophers (21-13)

F Sr. Damian Johnson</ br> C So. Ralph Sampson III</ br> G So. Devoe Joseph</ br> G Sr. Lawrence Westbrook</ br> G Jr. Blake Hoffarber

Xavier Musketeers (24-8)

F Jr. Jamel McLean</ br> F Jr. Dante Jackson (</ br> C Sr. Jason Love</ br> G So. Terrell Holloway</ br> G So. Jordan Crawford