Musketeers squeak past No. 23 Spiders
With a long home-court winning streak and another Atlantic 10 title
in jeopardy, point guard Terrell Holloway acted like he was back on
the hard courts in New York.
Holloway scored seven of his 24 points during the second overtime Sunday, leading Xavier to a 78-76 win over No. 24 Richmond in a showdown for first place.
Now, there are two teams left at the top. Xavier is one of them.
The Musketeers (21-7, 12-2) remained tied with No. 20 Temple, which beat La Salle later in the day. The Owls (24-5, 12-2) won their only head-to-head game this season in Philadelphia, giving them the first tiebreaker should they finish with identical conference records.
This one played out like an elimination game.
"Oh, man," said Jason Love, the Musketeers' only senior. "It ranks up there with one of the top wins since I've been here. Great game."
The Musketeers haven't lost an A-10 home game since the end of the 2005-06 season, running off 31 in a row -- the second-longest streak in league history. Richmond (22-7, 11-3) was best suited to break it, bringing the conference's best road record at 5-1.
The Spiders kept their poise and twice prevented Xavier from finishing them off. They couldn't make one last shot to keep it going. Justin Harper missed a driving layup from the right side of the basket in the final seconds of the second overtime.
"That was something special to be a part of," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "I can't see us being too down about the game. We can appreciate how good it was."
Richmond sent it to overtime with a clutch shot and good defense. David Gonzalvez hit a tying 3 with 24 seconds left in regulation, and Xavier's Jordan Crawford missed a tough 3 at the buzzer. Crawford also missed a 12-foot jumper in a crowd at the end of the first overtime, keeping it tied at 70.
In overtime, Holloway was the difference.
Holloway got going in the first overtime, hitting a pair of driving baskets and taking a charge. He opened the second overtime by hitting a 3, a pull-up jumper and a pair of free throws. He also took another charge that helped Xavier lead the entire second overtime.
"There's a saying in New York that when the lights are on, it's time to perform," said Holloway, who went to Hempstead High School. "It seemed that's what happened."
Love made only one of his two free throws with 13.1 seconds left, putting Xavier up 78-76. Richmond struggled to get an open shot, and Mooney called a timeout with 3.1 seconds to go. The Spiders got the ball to Harper off an inbound play, and he had a clear path to the basket. He didn't get enough on his shot.
"It's just a shot you've got to make," Harper said. "I might have gotten a little nervous. I was surprised how open the lane was there."
Gonzalvez led Richmond with 18 points. Crawford scored 19 points, the last coming on a jumper with 14:49 to go in regulation, but missed his last nine shots as Richmond's matchup defense clamped down and wore him down.
"I was a little tired," said Crawford, who finished 8 of 22 from the field. "I missed a couple of easy shots going to the hole."
The victory stretched Xavier's overall home-court winning streak to 23, tied for the third-longest active streak in Division I. It also snapped Richmond's eight-game winning streak, its longest in a dozen years.
There were 12 ties and 14 lead changes, with neither team up by more than six in the second half or overtime.
Xavier had a chance to take control at the outset, pulling ahead 22-15 for the biggest lead of the game. The Spiders hung in by hitting 3s. Eight of Richmond's first 11 baskets came from behind the arc, including five in a row. Xavier led 38-34 at halftime, when the Spiders were 8 of 17 from behind the arc.
The second half matched the first -- back-and-forth scoring, neither team able to put together a run, repeatedly making it come down to a final shot.
Xavier finishes the regular season with games at Fordham (0-14) and home against St. Bonaventure (6-8). Temple has the toughest game left, playing at fourth-place Saint Louis (10-4) before finishing at home against George Washington (6-8).
"This puts the race in our hands," Love said.