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Chalmers, Xavier top Louisville

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Lionel Chalmers and Xavier worked their postseason magic one more time, this time finding a way to stay in the NCAA Tournament.

Playing with the same poise and confidence that helped win four games in four days to capture the Atlantic 10 championship, the seventh-seeded Musketeers overcame a 14-point second half deficit last night to beat Louisville, 80-70, in the opening round of the Atlanta Regional.

Chalmers scored 25 points and Romain Sato added 24 for Xavier, which wiped out a 53-39 deficit with a 36-10 run that broke Louisville's spirit and forced the Cardinals out of the patient game plan that helped them build an 11-point halftime lead.

Chalmers had 9 points in Xavier's decisive surge, and the Musketeers took their first lead since it was 5-4 on Dedrick Finn's 4-point play that made it 62-60 with just under eight minutes to go. Taquan Dean led 10th-seeded Louisville (20-10) with 19 points before fouling out with 3:14 left. Luke Whitehead and Francisco Garcia scored 15 apiece for the Cardinals.

Xavier has won 14 of 15 games following a 10-9 start, including a 20-point blowout of then top-ranked Saint Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino was so impressed with the Musketeers' performance in that game that he had his players watch the entire first half of the upset instead of the customary edited highlights of an opponent that could make any team look imposing.

As good as Xavier was in February and March, Louisville was the total opposite. The Cardinals won 16 straight after a season-opening loss to Iowa.

But they lost eight of 12 heading into the tournament, struggling on the road and with injuries that hindered three key players -- Dean, Whitehead and Garcia, who showed last night how much they mean to the Cardinals' success.

Mississippi State 85, Monmouth 52 -- Lawrence Roberts scored 19 points, and the second-seeded Bulldogs outlasted the Hawks in the first round of the Atlanta Regional. Branden Vincent added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Shane Power had 13 points and Gary Ervin scored 11. Timmy Bowers had 9 assists, tying his career high, and 6 rebounds to go with 5 points and 3 steals.

Roberts appeared unhindered by an ankle injury that kept him out of practice this week. When the Southeastern Conference's player of the year was raked across the face with 10:43 to go, he sat for good.

Dwayne Byfield scored 12 points to lead Monmouth, the Northeast Conference champions who haven't won a tournament game in three trips. Blake Hamilton was held to 6 points, almost 11 fewer than his average.

North Carolina St. 61, La.-Lafayette 52 -- Marcus Melvin scored 20 points and the Wolfpack survived a subpar performance by Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Julius Hodge, who was held to 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting in an opening-round game of the Phoenix Regional. Louisiana-Lafayette kept it interesting, cutting its biggest deficit -- 11 points -- to seven on Antoine Landry's 3-pointer with just under three minutes to go. North Carolina State put the game away by going 6 for 6 from the foul line the rest of the way.

Antoine Landry led Louisiana-Lafayette with 16 points, but the Ragin' Cajuns shot just 32.7 percent from the field, including 5 for 22 on 3-point attempts, and were held to their second-lowest point total of the season.

Vanderbilt 71, Western Michigan 58 -- Mario Moore scored a career-high 26 points and Matt Freije added 13 and 8 rebounds, leading the sixth-seeded Commodores past the Broncos in the first round of the Phoenix Regional. It was the first NCAA tournament win for Vanderbilt since reaching the Sweet 16 in 1993.

Mike Williams, the MAC's player of the year, led Western Michigan with 24 points. But he scored only 8 after the break.

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