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Xavier vs Kansas State: A Look Back on the NCAA Classic

(Photo Courtesy of Frank Victores)

"Crawfords gotta hurry........ OH NO! He tied it!"

The legendary announcer Gus Johnson screamed after Jordan Crawford kept the Xavier Musketeers season alive with a tying three-point basket to send the epic Sweet 16 encounter against Kansas St to a second overtime. Xavier, hanging on by a thread, was already bailed out to go the first overtime when guard Tu Holloway was fouled at the end of regulation with three free throws, to which he hit all 3. "In the second half and overtime's it's hard to put into words the emotion you feel after each basket," Then Xavier Head Coach Chris Mack said when reminiscing on this game. "Whether we scored or they scored, every point seems crucial and monumental."

This is a Xavier team that went through so much this season. Whether it was right after the end of the previous season when Sean Miller left the program to take the Head Coaching job at the University of Arizona, a significant turnover in talent with C.J. Anderson and B.J. Raymond graduating and junior Derrick Brown preceding his final season of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft.

Once Sean Miller left the program, the responsibility of Head Coach was bestowed on to lead assistant Chris Mack. Mack, a former Xavier Basketball player, was jumping at the bit to take over the job. "Sean was a mastermind on how to run a program having served under some tremendous head coaches. I learned a lot during my time with him and tried to serve him as best I could. When I became the head coach at X, it was a dream come true, and the heavy responsibility becomes real. Fortunately, he helped prepare me to run a program, and many of the things we did were because of Sean's influence."

Also, Mack had a weapon Miller was without his last year at Xavier. Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford. Crawford went into the season, gaining a ton of attention after some reports of a pick-up game dunk over NBA Superstar LeBron James started spreading through the internet.

"When He (Crawford) put up that shot, I had no doubt it was going in," Former Xavier player Jason Love said to me on the Crawford tying basket. "The whole tournament he was playing lights out. To preface that shot, before Christmas break Coach Mack had a meeting with Jordan about trusting us more and his shot selection may be hurting us at times, and coach Mack told him to trust in us more and to trust in him more, and if you look at that time from after Christmas break through the end of the season Jordan was super efficient, and towards the end of the season, he was playing like the top player in the country. So when he went up for that shot I had no doubt that thing was going in. So credit to him for buying in and believing in us and coach,"

Before Christmas Break of the 2010 season, Xavier was still finding its footing as a team. They opened the month of December with a home victory over Kent State. They picked up wins over LSU, Miami (OH), and in city rival, Cincinnati, in the Crosstown shootout but also took some severe losses to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse and even the first time of the season they would see Frank Martin and the Kansas State Wildcats.

"I know it snowed a whole lot the night before," said Xavier's play by play commentator Joe Sunderman. "Kansas State pretty much had their way with Xavier, but there were moments in that game where I thought Xavier played them very well. So actually going into the Kansas State game in the (NCAA) tournament just because you got beat 40 minutes in a ball game but you had segments where you played well against them in the previous game you could see what you had done well, replicate that, it could be anybody's ball game."

At the start of the new year, Xavier had just one more non-conference game on the road at Wake Forest in the Skip Prosser Classic, where the team lost in double overtime. Coming out of that game, things started to gel for the team, and going into the Atlantic 10 season, the guys could feel the tides changing.

In the second round of the conference tournament, Richmond would get their revenge knocking Xavier out of the competition and then waiting for Selection Sunday to know their fate in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Little did the Musketeer fans know, the legend of Jordan Crawford was about to go to a whole new stratosphere.

(Photo courtesy of Frank Victores)

Xavier ended up as the six seed in the West Region as the six seed playing the 11 seed Minnesota. In the first round, Jordan Crawford scored 17 of his 28 points in the second half to help Xavier advance to face The University of Pittsburgh, the team that ended Xavier's season the year before in the Sweet 16.

"Pitt was personal to me because I really wanted to go to Pitt," Jason Love mentioned. "I was recruited a little bit by Jamie Dixon, but I was never offered, I'll never forget, so I had a chip on my shoulder to really produce because you don't forget something like that," Love had his best game of the tournament in that game scoring 14 points and eight rebounds with 5/8 shooting from the floor. Crawford had another stellar performance with 27 points to lead Xavier back to the Sweet 16 against a team that defeated them during the regular season, Kansas State.

"We got punked. We went to their gym, and we got punked. They took the fight to us; they punched us in the mouth," Jason Love said this was the message Chris Mack passed to his players to get ready for the rematch.

Kansas State brought a formidable team of their own to the dance, lead by Head Coach Frank Martin and the energetic backcourt duo of Jacob Pullen and Dennis Clemente. Pulled came into the game averaging 19.3 points per game and had a 34 point game performance the round before against BYU. Clemente, the Wildcats senior leader went into the game averaging 16.6 points per game and 4.2 assists per game. Behind their leading guards, the Wildcats started the game on a 17-4 run before Chris Mack called a timeout.

Between a double technical-foul, Jacob Pullen starting to hit a few baskets and a wild shot from Crawford, things were not looking good for Xavier leading into that moment. Still, Chris Mack gathered his troops together, and his confidence in his team didn't waver.

"We had a lot of respect for Frank Martin and his tough crew. They killed us at their place early in the year, but we knew deep down we were a much better team since that moment in time. Getting down early didn't help us, but we didn't panic and knew that if we could get stops defensively that we could get back in the game,"

Coming out of the timeout, Xavier responded with an 8-0 scoring run cutting the deficit to seven points. Junior guard Dante Jackson got the race started with a deep three-point basket followed by Jamel McClean knocking down a few free throws getting their team a little bit of confidence back.

Jordan Crawford and Tu Holloway showed glimpses of their athleticism and shot-making abilities pushing the pace for Xavier's offense and getting Kansas St. on their heels. Xavier knew they had to be physical to get back in the game and make the game a fight.

"Officials are letting them play too, folks it's physical out there. You better bring your hard hat, lunch pail because these two teams here in the first half are playing with a whole lot of intensity," Was the call from Gus Johnson during the broadcast as Xavier fought their way to make the game a contest again.

Kansas State started to struggle making shots and had some vast turnovers giving Holloway and Crawford more chances than they probably wanted to get Xavier back in the game.

"I was proud of our team, and the clutch 3s and free throws by Tu and Jordan were some of the biggest shots ever made by a Xavier player," Chris Mack said, reflecting on his star players scoring abilities.

Going into the final four minutes of the first half, the Wildcats were now only up by two points. At this point, Kansas State had not yet shot a free throw, but Xavier kept pushing to get to the line, eventually taking a small 32-31 lead into halftime. The team managed to get Jacob Pullen and Kansas St big man Jamar Samuels into foul trouble giving Xavier their confident swagger we had seen from this team all season.

"We definitely felt like we could beat them, and it was right there for the taking," Jason Love was the senior leader of this team. When the team went into the locker room, he knew what his team was thinking. "We saw Butler right there; we really wanted to play them because we felt like we owed them, so I feel like that kind of gave us more motivation to advance and use their win as motivation to move forward,"

Butler had just won the game before Xavier and Kansas State took the court upsetting the one seed Syracuse Orange. Xavier lost to Butler by only one point in December of that season. The Syracuse faithful filled the arena in Salt Lake City and were heartbroken to see their team lose earlier that day, but over the next 30 minutes of regulation, they were in for an instant classic.

Xavier had held Dennis Clemente to just four points in the first half, and he ended the half with a strained neck. Clemente scored the first basket of the half to give the Wildcats the lead, and Jordan Crawford responded with a basket of his own to provide Xavier with the edge. These two baskets were foreshadowing what the remainder of the game would be.

"It's been an up and down game for both of these teams. Frank Martin's Kansas State Wildcats lead by 15 at one time. Xavier reeled them in to take a one-point lead, but Kansas State after a very emotional halftime speech by Martin are now up in front 37-34." Gus Johnson's commentary in this game only adds to its legendary status withs calls like this.

Everything Xavier threw at Kansas State; the Wildcats had a response. Jacob Pullen drove into the lane with a drop off pass to Curtis Kelly that was blocked by Dante Jackson only to have the ball go back into Pullen's hands on the perimeter. Like a magnet attracted to metal, Pullen knocks down a three-point basket extending the lead to four. Xavier would play tough defense to challenge their opponent only to have Dennis Clemente hit pinball-like baskets. Mark Lyons, who the Musketeers counted on throughout the season, didn't make his first basket until the 15-minute mark of the game just for Kansas State to match his points with a score of their own.

As Jacob Pullen sat on the bench with three fouls, Dennis Clemente was the one looking like he was going to take over. Clemente was the maestro conducting the Wildcats offense to play the right tune towards victory scoring eight quick points to start the half including getting Dante Jackson to pick up a third foul of his own with 13 minutes remaining in regulation.

Brad Redford, Xavier's sophomore guard, makes a three-point basket to cut the lead to two before Kansas State to respond with a three-point play of their own. These two teams traded punches like a heavyweight classic. At 8:47 remaining Xavier was staring down a seven-point deficit before Chris Mack called a timeout. Kansas State starting switching their defenses confusing the Xavier offense and forcing turnovers.

Once Xavier figured out how to attack the defenses, they came rushing back into the fight. Redford knocked down a huge three off an inbound pass, helping Xavier inch closer to taking the lead. Clemente would come down and make a shot of his own before the Jordan Crawford show would get another significant scene.

"Crawford... OH! HAHA! One point game."

Kansas State's foul trouble began catching up with them as Wally Judge fouled out, Dominque Sutton and Jamar Samuels were both playing with four fouls, and Frank Martin was yet to bring Pullen back in after he picked up his third foul. It was time for Xavier to strike, but Kansas State wasn't going down without a fight of their own.

"Clemente again, Oh man! and one! Possibly a four-point play!"

The final media timeout passed, and these two teams kept finding ways to hit shots. Jackson and Crawford both made three-point field goals that Xavier fans have never forgotten, While Pullen and Clemente continued to make plays that made it seem like they could pull away and seal the game at any moment.

With 1:53 remaining, Xavier held a 67-66 lead. Kansas State would make a free throw to tie the game up, Clemente and Crawford both missed shots to break the tie, and the crowd is hanging on every shot attempt.

"You certainly had your Xavier and your Kansas State fans, but as that game went on, it captured everybody in the arena." Former Xavier Basketball player and play-by-play analyst Joe Sunderman spoke very passionately about the crowd in Salt Lake City this day. "You could sense it in the stands as that game got deeper and deeper into the contest that if you were just a casual fan, most chances you were not anymore and you have chosen a side, and now you're deeply involved in the game,"

With 23.6 seconds remaining, Jacob Pullen breaks the tie with a three-pointer that felt like it was the dagger, but as they say, not so fast.

Jason Love gets the rebound off of the Tu Holloway missed layup to get Xavier within one point of the Wildcats. Pullen comes back down and makes both free throws to make the score 72-69 with 9.7 seconds on the clock before Tu Holloway adds another chapter to the game.

"Here comes Holloway, with the screen OH AND HE'S FOULED! ON THE SHOT! AND HE'S GONNA SHOOT THREE!,"

"Tu is one of the best free-throw shooters I have ever played with to this day. He was cooler than the other side of the pillow," Jason Love said, reflecting on Holloway drawing the foul.

Joe Sunderman reflected on an even earlier memory of Tu Holloway in a situation at the free-throw line with the game on the line.

"I watched Tu Holloway as a freshman when Xavier won the Puerto Rican classic, and they were playing Memphis. He was just a freshman. They (Memphis) continued to foul the freshman that game. I believe he was 11 for 11 that game or something phenomenal, but you could tell in his demeanor and the way he walked up to the line. He lived for those moments, so I wasn't surprised he went three for three,"

Holloway went to the line as an 85.2% free throw shooter on the season, and he kept Xavier's season alive for another five minutes as Jacob Pullen runs down the court and has his shot bounce off the front rim to send the game to overtime.

Overtime starts with Jordan Crawford circling to the rim and catching an alley-oop from Holloway to then have Curtis Kelly come down and score for Kansas State on their next possession. After the Wildcats took a four-point lead, Holloway made a long three to bring Xavier back.

Andrew Taylor then fouls Jamar Samuels, who hits both free throws to give Kansas State a three-point lead, just for Tu Holloway to respond again with a three of his own to tie the game up at 84. After Dennis Clemente gets the layup to put the Wildcats back up two, then the Jordan Crawford magic strikes again.

"That is the one part of that game I can run back in my mind," Sunderman reflects on one of the biggest shots in Xavier history. I can still see him (Crawford) fading away, flipping his wrist and the ball going through the strings. That was one of those moments that gives you goosebumps and light you on fire,"

"Clemente, CLEMENTE FIRES! And we're heading to double overtime! What a game! Instant Classic!"

87-87, Double OT, a shot at the Elite Eight all was coming up in one last five-minute war. Jordan Crawford hits the first shot of double overtime. After Curtis Kelly had a four-point run himself, including a monster two-handed dunk, Jordan Crawford made another shot to register his 30th point of the game.

Crawford would get another basket off the inbound before Jacob Pullen gave Kansas State the one-point lead and never looked back.

"Pullen pulls away! Bang! He's in shape!"

Jacob Pullen gave Kansas State the 97-94 lead with less than a minute in double overtime. Although Tu Holloway would make two free throws to make it a one-point deficit with 25 seconds to go, Xavier players were fouling, and the team started running out of bodies as Kansas State would go on to win the game 101-96. In a game where these two teams didn't bring a ton of fans to Salt Lake City, both teams received a standing ovation from the sold-out arena.

"You're disappointed it didn't go the other way, but I do remember the respect given to both ball clubs as it should have been because it was an instant classic," Joe Sunderman.

Tim Daniel is the Host of 48 Minutes and @ Large Bid on the 48 Minutes Basketball Network and is credentialed to cover our local College Basketball Teams in the Cincinnati area. If you want to discuss the article with Tim or any other Basketball, Follow Him Here.

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*Thanks to T3SportsNCAA for uploading the full video on YouTube.

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