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March 22, 2008

Xavier beats Purdue to earn spot in Sweet 16

MORE: NCAA TOURNAMENT CENTRAL | HIGHLIGHTS: Xavier knocks off Purdue

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Xavier senior guard Stanley Burrell looked down at his shoes, each one sporting the words "Sweet 16" on the front.

"I'm done with them," Burrell said with a chuckle. "I'm going to get some Elite Eight boots now."

Xavier won't mind finding some new sneakers for Burrell, not after the third-seeded Musketeers held off sixth-seeded Purdue 85-78 in a West Regional second-round game Saturday at the Verizon Center. The Musketeers (29-6) face seventh-seeded West Virginia on Thursday in Phoenix in the Sweet 16.

It was a particularly satisfying victory for Xavier, which lost a late lead in regulation to eventual national runner-up Ohio State in the second round last season and suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss.

It looked as if Xavier might endure a similar fate again. The Musketeers surrendered a 10-point lead in the second half and fell behind 61-60 when the young Boilermakers (25-9) ripped off an 11-0 run, capped by E'Twaun Moore's layup.

But the Musketeers answered with a 7-0 run, ignited by B.J. Raymond's three-point play, which gave them a 67-61 edge with 3:37 remaining. Xavier hit 10 of its last 12 free throws to seal the outcome. Guard Drew Lavender made six of those attempts and finished with 18 points and nine assists. C.J. Anderson also scored 18 points, and Josh Duncan had 16.

"I had flashbacks a little bit because we were up last year," Xavier forward Derrick Brown said. "But we just kept saying, 'It's a new year.' There is no comparison to how it feels now. It's a total 180."

Brown did a superb job guarding Purdue's star freshman Robbie Hummel, who didn't score in the first half and finished with seven points on 2-for-10 shooting from the floor.

Xavier set a school record with 29 wins and is headed to the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history. But there is a probable drawback to all the success.

It will make it even tougher to hold on to coach Sean Miller. Only 37, Miller has been linked with the vacant job at Indiana and is sure to be linked with many other high-major jobs that come open. Miller, who is under contract through 2015-16, has taken Xavier to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Like Miller, Purdue's Matt Painter also has emerged as one of the nation's hottest young coaches. The Boilermakers, who lost the bulk of a team that lost to eventual national champ Florida in the second round last season, far exceeded expectations by finishing second in the Big Ten with a rotation that featured four freshmen - two of whom started.

Painter and the Boilermakers will have big hopes for 2008-09. With every key player set to return, they will be a lock for the preseason top 25.

MORE: NCAA TOURNAMENT CENTRAL | HIGHLIGHTS: Xavier knocks off Purdue

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.



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