MILWAUKEE -- Some quick postgame thoughts on Xavier's 71-68 win over Pittsburgh before the coaches and players address the media:
Pittsburgh's toughness has been one of its defining qualities all season, and it was on display again Sunday night. Pittsburgh let Xavier build a 13-point lead early in the second half. The Musketeers looked comfortable, ready to roll to an easy win and a Sweet 16 berth. Instead, thanks to a really bad batch of Xavier transition defense, Pitt came roaring back with a 12-0 run to cut Xavier's lead to one. This was a theme of the second half -- easy shots. Pitt wasn't making unlikely jumpers or reaching for difficult finishes. The Panthers were getting inside and scoring point-blank layups with minimal interference from the Musketeers defense.
Xavier quickly answered, though, slowing the game down, shoring up the transition D, and building its lead back to 57-49 on a tough and-one finish by point guard Terrell Holloway. Pitt refused to go away, cutting the lead to four on a Gilbert Brown three with 1:45 remaining -- and again to three with 15.9 left -- but the Panthers would never draw even with Xavier again.
After carrying his team with 18 points in the first, Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs largely vanished in the second half, shooting just three times and scoring one point.
Jordan Crawford was great again: 27 points on 9-of-15 from the field, plus six rebounds. Crawford is a special scorer.
Speaking of which, Crawford is getting really good at that patented little hanging scoop shot of his. Crawford had one in Friday's game against Minnesota that sent the crowd into fits. He followed that on Sunday with a nearly identical -- and just as beautiful -- layup, and the crowd responded with a chorus of "oooohhh." It's a novel way to take contact around the rim and still finish the play, and it requires a special level of athleticism and skill. Crawford has both in spades.
College basketball fans of America: We get it. You don't like the referees. Sharing this fact every second of every game your team plays is probably going a little overboard, though. Rein it in, huh? Cool? Cool.