NCAA hoops: Xavier advances with 71-68 victory over Pittsburgh
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE — Suddenly, Jordan Crawford is more than just the guy who dunked on LeBron James.
Crawford scored 27 points, including a breakaway dunk with just over two minutes remaining, to help Xavier beat Pittsburgh 71-68 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday night.
Jason Love had 14 points and a key block down the stretch for the sixth-seeded Musketeers (26-8), who advanced to play second-seeded Kansas State in the West Regional semifinals in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
Ashton Gibbs scored 19 points and Brad Wanamaker had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the third-seeded Panthers (25-9), who nearly rallied with two 3-pointers by Gilbert Brown in the final 28 seconds of the game.
Gibbs missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with less than a second left. Pittsburgh had one last chance to inbound the ball with 0.4 seconds left, but Wanamaker left the shot short.
It was another strong performance for Crawford, who had 28 points Friday to bail the Musketeers out from a poor first-half shooting performance and beat Minnesota in the first round.
Crawford, a transfer from Indiana, is best-known among basketball fans for dunking on James at an offseason basketball camp.
It was a rematch from last year's tournament, when the Panthers beat the Musketeers one round later.
Trailing 57-49 with 6:21 remaining, Pittsburgh came back to cut the lead to 3 on a baseline layup by Wanamaker, but Terrell Holloway released a pull-up jumper on the other end that bounced twice on the rim and fell in, giving the Musketeers a 61-56 lead with 3:09 remaining.
Jermaine Dixon missed for Pitt, Love ripped down the rebound for Xavier and Jamel McLean was fouled on the other end. McLean missed both free throws, but Love swatted away a shot at the other end and Holloway got the ball to Crawford for a breakaway dunk with 2:04 left.
Brown hit a 3-pointer, cutting the lead to four with 1:45 left. Crawford was fouled and hit both free throws, giving Xavier a 65-59 lead with 1:22 remaining.
Gibbs went to the line but hit only one of two free throws.
Holloway then made two free throws but Brown hit another 3-pointer, cutting Xavier's lead to 67-63 with 27.8 seconds left.
After two free throws by Crawford, Brown hit another 3-pointer to cut the lead to 3 with 16.9 remaining. The inbounds pass went out of bounds, but officials gave the ball back to Xavier.
Brown fouled Holloway, who made them both, and Pitt's Travon Woodall drove for a layup to cut the lead to 3 with 8.2 left.
Dante Jackson missed two free throws for Xavier, but Pittsburgh couldn't convert either of its final two chances to tie.
The job of guarding Crawford fell primarily to Jermaine Dixon, the Panthers' top defensive stopper.
Dixon held Crawford in check for the first 13 minutes of the game, but Crawford finally shook free from Dixon later in the first half to hit a layup and get fouled by Wanamaker, converting the three-point play. Crawford broke free for an acrobatic fast-break layup just seconds later.
The Musketeers would continue on a 16-0 run, taking a 31-18 lead on a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer by Crawford.
Crawford also showed his prowess on the defensive end during a scoreless streak of more than 6 minutes by the Panthers, blocking a shot by Dante Taylor.
The Panthers, behind Gibbs' 18 points, cut the lead to 35-28 at halftime.