In a span of 48 critical seconds late in overtime, B.J. Raymond made more 3-pointers than the entire West Virginia team did all night.
He went from “non-factor” to nonplussed, calmly knocking down two long-range jumpers that lifted Xavier past coach Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers 79-75 Thursday night in the West Region semifinals.
Third-seeded Xavier (30-6) rallied from a six-point deficit in overtime. The Musketeers will seek their first Final Four appearance when they play top-seeded UCLA, which beat Western Kentucky 88-78, on Saturday.
Raymond, who scored all eight of his points from overtime, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Musketeers ahead 75-74 with 1:18 to play.
He then shook loose on an inbound play, took a crosscourt bounce pass from Stanley Burrell and made a 3 with the shot clock expiring for a 78-74 lead with 30 seconds left.
“I was kind of a non-factor for the first 40 minutes,” Raymond said. “I knew when I got back in there, I had to make something happen.”
The second 3 was the dagger.
“It wasn’t a great play that I drew up,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “It was a terrific pass by Stanley Burrell and an amazing shot off the bounce by B.J.”
Huggins said his defense clogged up the intended play but “somebody fell asleep” to allow the wide-open 3.
Josh Duncan scored a career-high 26 points despite foul trouble to lead Xavier.
Xavier, which led by 18 early in the game, rallied from a 71-65 deficit in overtime.
Joe Alexander scored 18 and had 10 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Mountaineers (26-11) before fouling out in the overtime.
West Virginia missed four of six free throws in the overtime. Alexander missed one with 14.2 seconds left in regulation that would have given his team a 65-64 lead.
Xavier shot 11-for-19 on 3s while West Virginia was 1-for-11 from long range. The Mountaineers had only one worse performance on 3s this season, going 1-for-22 in a loss to Cincinnati.
“I don’t know what we are shooting on the year,” Alexander said, “but it is definitely better than 10 percent. In a close game like that, if we would have shot even half of what we normally shoot, it would have made a big difference.”
Going into the game, West Virginia had shot 35 percent from 3-point range.
Duncan was 3-of-4 on 3s, Drew Lavender 3-of-6 and Raymond 2-of-4.
“I shot that shot probably 100,000 times in my life,” Raymond said of his late 3s. “It is easy once you’ve shot it so many times.”
Da’Sean Butler added 16 points, 14 in the second half for West Virginia. Butler also fouled out in the overtime.
Xavier has been in a regional final only once, in 2004.
Despite the loss, Huggins has had quite the comeback with the school he played for.
Out of work two years ago, he barely missed taking a team to the regional final for the fourth time.
Huggins got fired at Cincinnati—a school he led to the 1992 Final Four— after a drunken driving arrest and sat out a season before surfacing at Kansas State in 2007. He guided that team to the NIT, where it lost in the second round.
Huggins and his team seemed right among basketball’s elite in reaching the round of 16.
“The reality is we played pretty well,” he said. “We just didn’t finish it.”
Duncan drew his fourth foul with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation.
He came out briefly, then returned and was on the court almost the entire rest of the game. When it was over, he grabbed the ball and hurled it in to the wildly cheering Xavier booster section.
“We had been in so many tough situations throughout the year,” Duncan said. “Instead of easily giving up or panicking, we stayed poised, stayed together.”
The Musketeers built a big lead at the start, but West Virginia scored the final five points of the half to cut it to 32-25.
The Mountaineers took their first lead of the game at 51-50 on Butler’s 8-foot bank shot with 9:41 left.
There were six lead changes and four ties the remainder of regulation.
Duncan’s three-point play with 1:56 left tied it at 62, and his two free throws with 1:28 to play in the second half put Xavier up 64-62.
After that, West Virginia went cold. Alexander missed a jumper on one possession, and his teammates couldn’t connect on three rebound shots.
Nobody could score again until Alexander’s tough 15-foot bank shot with 14.2 seconds left tied it at 64. But he missed the free throw, and Lavender’s 18-footer under pressure missed to send the game into overtime.
“We won the game, West Virginia lost, but you needed a little luck when it is this tight with so much at stake,” Miller said, “and a couple of balls bounced our way.”
For a while, with the Mountaineers misfiring from everywhere, it looked like an Xavier blowout.
The Musketeers made six of their first eight 3-pointers and West Virginia missed its first eight shots.
Lavender made two 3s and assisted on another, and the Musketeers led 28-10, thanks largely to 3-for-16 shooting by the Mountaineers.
But Wellington Smith brought West Virginia back, scoring the first eight in a 10-0 run that cut it to 28-20 on Jamie Smalligan’s unlikely, awkward 12-foot bank shot with 4:05 left in the half.
West Virginia shot 33 percent for the half and 0-for-6 on 3s. Xavier made 6-of-11 on 3s.
Alexander, averaging 16.8 points per game, had two at the half on 1-of-4 shooting.