Flyers stun Musketeers in A-10 tourney

Another Atlantic 10 tournament. Another letdown for top-seeded Xavier.

Luke Fabrizius hit two free throws with 5.8 seconds to play and Dayton extended the Musketeers’ string of failures in the league tournament by stunning No. 18 Xavier 68-67 in the quarterfinals on Friday.

”At this time of year, you cannot play uphill,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. ”To come back from 18 down is a pretty tough thing to do.”

The Musketeers, who have made the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons, have not won a league tournament title since 2006 despite winning or sharing the regular-season championship the past five seasons.

Xavier (24-7) likely will get another bid to the NCAA party on Sunday.

”We have to be ready to practice next week,” senior forward Dante Jackson said. ”We have to take whatever we can from this loss and be ready when it’s time to play again.”

No. 9 seed Dayton (21-12) will face 12th-seeded Saint Joseph’s (11-21) in the semifinals. The Hawks upset fourth-seeded Duquesne 93-90 in overtime.

Last year’s NIT champion, Dayton came out ready against the Musketeers. It built an 18-point lead in the opening minutes and still led by 17 midway through the second half when Xavier made a final charge, tying the game with less than 3 minutes to play and eventually taking its only lead at 67-66 on a three-point play by conference player of the year Tu Holloway with 23.9 seconds to go.

Xavier had a foul to give and it did with 12.6 seconds remaining. Chris Johnson, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds, missed a jumper in the lane on the inbounds play but Fabrizius got the rebound and was fouled hard by Mark Lyons on his way back up.

Fabrizius fell hard to the floor and hit his head. For a couple of seconds there was concern he was hurt.

”I didn’t even hear the whistle,” said Fabrizius, who finished with 10 points. ”I just got up, shook myself off, and I knew I had to knock the free throws down.”

His shots hit nothing but net.

”I don’t think I’ve ever hit free throws that big,” Fabrizius said.

Xavier still had a chance to win.

Holloway, who had 23 points, inbounded the ball to 7-foot center Kenny Frease on the final possession. Holloway bobbled the ball momentarily when taking a return pass and the lost time prevented him from taking the ball to the basket. His 35-foot runner was on line but a little hard and Xavier, which went 15-1 against Atlantic 10 teams in the regular season, fell again in the tournament.

”It wasn’t to be,” Mack said. ”It’s disappointing.”

As Dayton players hugged, Holloway looked up at the ceiling of Boardwalk Hall and put his hands to his head in disbelief.

”I was trying to catch the ball with one arm, and I got slowed,” he said. ”But still, I got a good look, but it had to be a one-legged runner.”

Chris Wright scored 15 points to lead Dayton, which lost both regular-season meetings with Xavier. Paul Williams had eight of his 14 in a game-opening 21-3 spurt.

Lyons scored 14 points for Xavier, while Jamel McLean had 11.

Xavier staged a magnificent comeback after falling behind 21-3 in the opening minutes and finding itself down 54-37 with 12:21 to play after Williams hit a 3-pointer.

After that, the Musketeers started playing like the best team in the league. They eventually tied the game at 64 on a fast-break layup by Holloway with 2:47 to play, capping a 27-10 spurt.

Both teams failed to score on their next possession and Dayton eventually took a 66-64 lead on a layup by Josh Benson with 1:26 to play.

Lyons missed a drive on the Musketeers’ next possession and Xavier looked in trouble when it committed a foul with 36.5 seconds to go, giving Dayton another 35-second shot clock.

However, the Flyers could not get the ball in play and were called for a 5-second violation.

Holloway drove the left side of the lane on the ensuing possession and converted a three-point play, giving Xavier its first lead at 67-66 with 23.9 seconds to go – but Fabrizius had one final response.

Dayton hit eight of its first nine shots, including four 3-pointers in jumping to a 21-3 lead in the opening 7:22. Williams ignited and capped the burst with 3-pointers.