Lexington: BYU Hanging On

By - March 15, 2007


We're at the 12-minute media timeout and Xavier has used an 11-3 run to pull within 14-13.

During the break, Ohio State coach Thad Matta walked out of one of the tunnels to speak to someone on press row -- immediately inciting a loud round of boos and negative chants ("Sell-out!") from the Xavier fans throughout the Rupp Arena stands. XU supporters still feel jilted about how Matta left the Cincinnati school just weeks after coaching the Musketeers to within a game of the Final Four in 2004.

Quick history lesson: On Jan. 31, 2004, Xavier slipped to 10-9 on the season after its fifth loss in six tries and Matta -- then in his third season on the XU sidelines -- was feeling the heat from the Jesuit school's notoriously demanding fan base.

But Xavier moved to 11-9 with a 71-69 victory over then-No. 10 Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout, the school's most important rivalry game of the season. That huge out-of-conference win sparked a late-season run to the Atlantic 10 title and the Elite Eight (including a 20-point win over then-undefeated Saint Joseph's).

All of a sudden -- to no one's surprise -- the Xavier fans loved Matta.

The Illinois native ended up taking the Ohio State job that off-season to the disappointment of the Xavier camp. But I've always wondered whether the hostile and mutinous treatment endured by Matta during the hard times that season played into his decision to leave.

Posted by at 09:58 PM on March 15, 2007
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