When Dedrick Finn's shot from well beyond midcourt went through the basket, Mississippi State knew it was in trouble. "He did that," Bulldogs guard Timmy Bowers lamented, "and I said it's going to be a long night."
Finn's buzzer-beater gave Xavier a 1-point halftime lead, and the seventh-seeded Musketeers went on to win, 89-74, yesterday in an upset that sent them to the Atlanta Regional semifinals.
Lionel Chalmers scored a career-high 31 points and Finn added 22, helping Xavier (25-10) advance beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990. The Musketeers won opening-round games the past two years, only to lose to Oklahoma and Maryland.
"If this is not my time, I'm not going to have a time," said Chalmers, one of Xavier's three starting seniors.
"I've been feeling good and just knocking it down. There's really not too many things you can do to me out there when I feel like I can make shots."
Xavier, which has won 15 of 16 after a 10-9 start, overcame a double-digit deficit for the second straight game and will face No. 3 seed Texas in the regional semifinals Friday.
Chalmers made 11 of 13 shots, including all four of his 3-point attempts. Finn was 5 of 7 from beyond the arc, while Romain Sato -- the Musketeers' leading scorer during the regular season -- finished with 12 points.
Mississippi State (26-4), the No. 2 seed, shot 36 percent and lost control after building a 23-13 lead in the first 11 minutes. Xavier finished the half with a 21-10 run, with Chalmers scoring 12 in that stretch. Shane Power led the Southeastern Conference regular-season champions with 16 points. Bowers had 15 and SEC Player of the Year Lawrence Roberts was limited to 11 on 4-for-11 shooting.
A key element of Mississippi State's game plan again was containing Sato. But in doing that, the Bulldogs were unable to keep up with the lightning-quick Chalmers, who repeatedly knifed his way through the defense to score or set up opportunities for teammates. The 6-foot point guard was equally effective from the perimeter, finishing 6 of 7 from the field and making a pair of 3-pointers over taller defenders during the first-half run that got the Musketeers back into the game.
Vanderbilt 75, N.C. State 73 -- With a shout to the rafters, Matt Freije roused his slumping game. He then carried Vanderbilt to victory. Freije scored 31 points and Corey Smith's 3-point play with 21.2 seconds remaining gave the sixth-seeded Commodores the win over North Carolina State in the second round of the Phoenix Regional.
Vanderbilt (23-9) plays No. 2 Connecticut in the regional semifinals Thursday. The last time the Commodores reached the Round of 16 was 1993.
Vandy trailed by 11 with 4:20 remaining, but Freije scored 11 points from there to lead the comeback. The rally was aided when Smith drew an intentional foul on Marcus Melvin with 1:51 to play. Smith hit the foul shots to bring Vanderbilt within 71-67, and Mario Moore followed it up by sinking a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
Freije's open jumper from the left baseline with 52.7 seconds left put the Commodores up, 72-71, their first lead since 43-39.
Freije was 8 for 15, 4 for 8 on 3-pointers, and made all 11 of his free throws.
Third-seeded North Carolina State (21-10) briefly went ahead on Ilian Evtimov's free throws with 33.6 seconds. Evtimov finished with a career-high 28 points, 17 in the second half.