The Xavier Nation was in full force as about 200 XU fans were on hand for Friday's game.
Nov. 17, 2006
ST. THOMAS, V.I. - In a thrilling final three minutes, the Xavier men's basketball team hung on to defeat Virginia Commonwealth, 70-67, in the first round of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, V.I. Drew Lavender led the way with 14 points and the Musketeers advance to Sunday's winner bracket second-round game versus Villanova at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Lavender led four players in double-figures for the Musketeers (2-0), who are playing their first regular season contests outside the continental United States since a 1998 appearance in the San Juan Shootout. John Duncan scored 13 and Justin Cage and Stanley Burrell each had 11. Justin Doellman swiped a game-high 10 rebounds. VCU's B.A. Walker led all scorer with 21 points.
In the closing minutes, the Rams' threw their full-court pressure at the Musketeers and turned what was once a 14-point Xavier lead in the second half to single-digits. VCU (1-1), which trailed by as many as 11 with 3:46 remaining, found itself down 66-62 with less than a minute on the clock.
Lavender, who was four-for-nine from the line on the night, missed the front end of one-and-one, and Walker scored for VCU on the ensuing possession to make it 66-64. Burrell then hit a pair of free throws after he was fouled on the in-bounds pass. A big three by VCU's Jesse Pellot-Rose cut the deficit to one (68-67), but Lavender drove to the basket with 17 seconds remaining and was fouled. The Oklahoma transfer hit the second of two, putting XU up 69-67 with 17.1 seconds remaining.
Derrick Brown, who scored five points in just eight minutes of action, rebounded a VCU missed three and made the back end of the free throws, which put XU up 70-67 with 5.6 seconds left. The Rams last-second shot came up short, giving the Musketeers the victory.
VCU's pressure forced the Musketeers into 21 turnovers on the night, but just four came from XU's guards. The opportunist Rams converted those miscues into 21 points. Lavender, who dished out five assists against no turnovers, was four-for-seven from the field and hit two threes. Xavier also struggled at the free throw line, going 14-of-24.
It was Lavender who helped spark an early 8-0 run for the Musketeers as they turned a 7-6 deficit into a 14-7 advantage over a three minute stretch midway through the first half. He bookended a pair of three-pointers around a Brandon Cole jumper to give XU that seven-point cushion at the 10:55 mark.
The Musketeers were held to just three free throws and a field goal over the next 5:30 as VCU chipped away at the lead. The Rams had it down to two (19-17) at 6:50 on a layup by Walker, but Xavier would see its lead grow to nine at 31-22 two minutes before the break, thanks to a Lavender basket and a putback from Brown that capped a 10-5 run.
The Rams' pressure, combined with a mini 4-0 run to end the half, gave Xavier just a 31-26 lead at the break.
VCU stormed out the locker room and went on a 12-4 run to take the lead (38-35) at the 17:08 mark. Wil Fameni, who finished with 11 points, scored five in that stretch.
But Xavier came charging right back, building the lead to as many as 14 (60-46) by the 9:01 mark of the second half. Duncan triggered the eventual game-deciding stretch as he drained back-to-back threes which stemmed the VCU tide and gave Xavier the lead back for good.
Xavier will face the winner of Friday's final match-up, Villanova, on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET in the second round of the winners' bracket. That game will be televised and carried by Fox Sports. Click here for more information.