One day after game officials found a way to make themselves the story as top-seeded Syracuse held off North Carolina-Asheville, a different set of officials found themselves front and center as 10th-seeded Xavier advanced with a 67-63 victory over seventh-seeded Notre Dame in a South Region round-of-64 game on Friday night in Greensboro, N.C.
Xavier had trailed by as many as 11 points before rallying and eventually taking a 65-63 lead after Dezmine Wells made 1 of 2 free throws with 8.1 seconds left.
Notre Dame point guard Eric Atkins, who is from Columbia, dribbled up the court as fast as he could and drew a foul as he was tripped while trying to split a pair of defenders with 2.8 seconds left.
Atkins went to the line for the front end of a one-and-one and made his first shot, but referees called a lane violation on Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant (DeMatha), who had rushed in from the top of the key for a potential rebound. It appeared to be the correct call, but no doubt leaves a bitter of taste for Notre Dame’s players and coaches, who did not get to see if Atkins could make a game-tying free throw.
An intentional foul called on Notre Dame on the inbounds play sealed the victory.
Xavier advanced to Sunday’s round-of-32, where it will face tournament darling and 15th-seeded Lehigh, which upset second-seeded Duke earlier in the night.
Guard Tu Holloway (25 points) keyed the Musketeers’ rally. His steal and spinning drive put Xavier up 59-58 with less than four minutes left, its first lead since the first half.
It was 60-60 until Grant’s step-back three-pointer from the left wing put Notre Dame in front with one minute left. Mark Lyons scored on a drive to get the Musketeers within 63-62 with 44 seconds left, then Atkins threw an errant pass out of bounds and Holloway’s running back shot put Xavier ahead 64-63 with 21 seconds left.
Grant missed a three-pointer, then Wells made 1 of 2 free throws, setting up the dramatic finish.
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