CINCINNATI (AP) -- Josh Duncan scored a career high 20 points and
hit two pivotal jumpers in the closing minutes Friday night,
leading Xavier to a 70-59 victory over Fordham and a spot in the
Atlantic 10 tournament final.
Xavier (20-10) will be trying to win its third A10 tournament
title in five years when it plays Saint Joseph's on Saturday. The
Hawks beat Temple 73-59 in the earlier semifinal.
The Musketeers became the first A10 team to win four games in
four days during the 2004 tournament, which launched the Musketeers
on a run to the NCAA's final eight. Only nine other teams have won
four games in four days to clinch a tournament title.
No school has done it twice. This one has a chance.
Justin Cage added 13 points, and Justin Doellman -- playing with
two broken bones in his heavily wrapped shooting hand -- scored 12
in a balanced attack. Bryant Dunston led Fordham with 16 points and
nine rebounds, but fouled out with 2:04 to go.
Xavier has dominated Fordham (16-16) since it joined the
Atlantic 10 in the 1995-96 season, going 12-1. That includes a
20-point victory on Feb. 15, the Musketeers' first game after
leading scorer Brian Thornton was lost for the season to a broken
Instead of letting its season crumble, Xavier reinvented itself
as more of a perimeter-driven team. The Musketeers started gelling
at tournament time, just like two years ago.
Fordham, playing in its first A10 semifinal, was staggered in
the opening minutes. Cage's 3-pointer started a 15-6 opening run by
Xavier, which wore its road blue uniforms but had the crowd on its
side. The tournament is played at a downtown arena located a
20-minute drive from campus.
The Rams rank second in the conference in 3-point shooting, but
missed their first seven attempts from behind the arc. When they
started falling, the game tightened.
Jermaine Anderson's three-point play off a steal and layup tied
it at 20 and started a series of rapid-fire lead changes. Anderson
and Michael Binns swished NBA-distance 3-pointers as the shot clock
ran down, while Xavier countered by driving for baskets.
Stanley Burrell's fastbreak floater with 2 seconds left put
Xavier up 37-33 at halftime.
Xavier held a slim lead through the first 10 minutes of the
second half, unable to put together a run or stop Fordham from
keeping pace. Johnny Wolf's driving layup made it 50-43 with 9:23
to go, Xavier's biggest lead since its game-opening run.
At that point, both teams looked a little tired from the
up-and-down pace. Duncan finally broke it open by hitting a pull-up
jumper and another shot from the corner. Doellman's rebound and
bank shot put Xavier up 60-49 with 4:29 to go, and Fordham never
got closer than eight points the rest of the way.