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Raymond the ‘X’ factor in OT

Xavier pulls out win over West Virginia

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PHOENIX — In a span of 48 critical seconds late in overtime, B.J. Raymond made more 3-pointers than the entire West Virginia team did all night.

He went from "non-factor" to nonplussed, calmly knocking down two long-range jumpers that lifted Xavier past coach the Mountaineers 79-75 Thursday in the West Region semifinals.

Third-seeded Xavier (30-6) rallied from a six-point deficit in overtime, and will seek its first Final Four appearance when it plays the UCLA-Western Kentucky winner on Saturday.

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Raymond, who scored all eight of his points from overtime, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Musketeers ahead 75-74 with 1:18 to play. He then shook loose on an inbound play, took a crosscourt bounce pass from Stanley Burrell and made a 3 with the shot clock expiring for a 78-74 lead with 30 seconds left.

"I was kind of a non-factor for the first 40 minutes," Raymond said. "I knew when I got back in there, I had to make something happen."

The second 3 was the dagger.

Huggins said his defense clogged up the intended play but "somebody fell asleep" to allow the wide-open 3.

Josh Duncan scored a career-high 26 points despite foul trouble to lead Xavier.

Xavier, which led by 18 early in the game, rallied from a 71-65 deficit in overtime.

Joe Alexander scored 18 and had 10 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Mountaineers (26-11) before fouling out in the overtime.

West Virginia missed four of six free throws in the overtime. Alexander missed one with 14.2 seconds left in regulation that would have given his team a 65-64 lead.

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Xavier shot 11-for-19 on 3s while West Virginia was 1-for-11 from long range. The Mountaineers had only one worse performance on 3s this season, going 1-for-22 in a loss to Cincinnati.

"I don’t know what we are shooting on the year," Alexander said, "but it is definitely better than 10 percent. In a close game like that, if we would have shot even half of what we normally shoot, it would have made a big difference."

EAST REGION

Louisville 79, Tennessee 60

According to coach Rick Pitino, the only skill Earl Clark lacked when he arrived at Louisville was the ability to work hard. The sleek forward from New Jersey has added that component to his all-around game, and the result was evident in the Cardinals’ 79-60 win over Tennessee in a Sweet 16 game in the East Regional in Charlotte, N.C.

Clark led Louisville with 17 points (7-for-10 shooting) and added 12 rebounds for his 10th double-double. The 6-8 sophomore from Rahway High School also had four blocks and two steals as the Cards (27-8) advanced to an Elite Eight meeting with top-seeded North Carolina on Saturday night. The Volunteers (31-5) were denied their first berth in a regional final.

Louisville raised Pitino’s record in Sweet 16 appearances to 8-0, and the Cards are 5-1 against Top 20 teams this season. The Vols were ranked fifth by AP, eight slots ahead of the Cardinals.

Tennessee scored the first six points of the second half and led 41-39 after five minutes. But Clark made a long out-of-bounds pass over the Vols’ press to Preston Knowles, who hit Terrance Williams in stride for a layup. David Padgett blocked a shot and dunked at the other end, and Clark made the next two baskets on a lefthanded drive and a short jumper, making it 49-39. The Vols never inched closer than seven thereafter.

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Chris Lofton, Tennessee’s leading scorer, didn’t sink his first field goal until the game was almost 28 minutes old. The All-American guard finished his career with 15 points.

UNC 68, Wash. St. 47

Washington State’s Kyle Weaver drove left, rose on the baseline to attempt a dunk and watched helplessly as North Carolina’s Alex Stepheson swatted the ball from his hands.

Seconds later, Weaver drove right and elevated for a layup attempt. This time Stepheson came from behind and blocked the shot out of bounds for the highlight of a dominating defensive performance.

The Carolina fans who’d turned Charlotte into Chapel Hill stood and roared at the signature plays of a 68-47 win.

They came to see the lightning-quick offense that generated 113 and 108 points in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. But they appreciated the grind-it-out, halfcourt toughness that trumped a Cougars defense that is among the stingiest in the nation.

"Sometimes you have to do that," Stepheson said. "You can’t always run and get 100 points. Sometimes you have to win in the 50s, 60s or 70s."

Thursday’s win demonstrated the Tar Heels (35-2)can blow out an opponent even if a superb defensive team slows them.

No.4 seed Washington State (26-9) held ACC scoring leader Tyler Hansbrough to two first-half points, but North Carolina still led 35-21 at halftime.

Danny Green scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half. Hansbrough bounced back in the second half to finish with a game-high 18 points.

But the highlight for the Tar Heels was a defense that held an opponent below 50 points for the first time this season.

It was the fewest points North Carolina allowed in a NCAA tournament game since 1946.

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