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Bonnies earn first A-10 tourney title with win over Xavier

Mar 12, 2012 - 12:14 AM Atlantic City, NJ (Sports Network) - Conference Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson scored 26 points to go with 14 rebounds and eight blocks as St. Bonaventure captured its first Atlantic 10 Tournament title with a 67-56 win over Xavier.

Nicholson, named the tourney's Most Outstanding Player, tallied 70 points, 30 rebounds and 16 blocks for the fourth-seeded Bonnies (20-11) during their three-game run in Atlantic City.

"Andrew (Nicholson) was terrific, he talked about everybody playing their role and the role guys have to do what they're supposed to do, the point guard has to do what he has to do, and your best player has to do what he does, and our best player was the best guy on the court tonight, and that's the main reason why we won," Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said.

St. Bonaventure, which is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000, received a No. 14 seed in the upcoming tourney and will open against third-seeded Florida State in the East region.

"First time I've been there, something special, it's exciting," Nicholson said of his opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Tu Holloway had 17 points and Mark Lyons added 16 for third-seeded Xavier (21-12), which last won the conference tourney in 2006. The Musketeers shot 33.9 percent from the floor and were just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc.

Xavier, though, did receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It got a No. 10 seed and will open against seventh-seeded Notre Dame in the South region.

"It's a difficult moment. We came here as a group that wanted to win our first Tournament Championship since 2006 and we fell short. I give St. Bonaventure a lot of credit, they really hurt us on the offensive glass," Xavier head coach Chris Mack said.

Nicholson helped the Bonnies get off to an electrifying start.

He knocked down a pair of three-pointers and netted 10 points during a 22-6 run, which gave St. Bonaventure a 27-11 lead with 6:53 remaining in the opening half.

The Bonnies, who nailed five of their first six attempts from beyond the arc, led by double figures for the remainder of the stanza and took a 37-24 advantage into the locker room.

Early in the second half, a pair of Da'Quan Cook free throws gave St. Bonaventure its largest lead of the contest, at 41-24.

But the four-time A-10 Tournament champs reeled off 11 unanswered points to get back into the game. Lyons netted seven points during the flurry as the Musketeers pulled within 41-35 with 13:06 to play.

After the Bonnies stretched the lead back to 10, Lyons' triple followed by Dezmine Wells' three-point play trimmed the margin to 45-41 midway through the second half.

The Musketeers, though, never got any closer as they were unable to overcome a near seven minute field-goal drought in which they missed 10 straight shots.

Charlon Kloof made four foul shots and Chris Johnson made a pair from the charity stripe in the closing minutes to seal the win for the Bonnies.

Game Notes

Nicholson passed Bonnies legend and NBA Hall of Famer Bob Lanier for third place on the school's all-time scoring list with 2,083 points...The Musketeers began the game 4-of-18 from the floor and 0-of-7 from three-point range...Kloof and Cook finished with nine points...The Bonnies outrebounded the Musketeers 42-29...Xavier still holds a 24-16 edge in the all-time series...The Bonnies will be making their sixth (1961, 1968, 1970, 1978, 2000, 2012) all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament.