BYU Hoping to Reverse Trend of First-round Losses

BYU Hoping to Reverse Trend of First-round Losses

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Austin Ainge has seen the film clip of one of the most memorable moments in Brigham Young basketball history so many times that he no longer views it as a big deal.

Video of Danny Ainge driving the length of the floor in the closing seconds to make a layup giving the Cougars a one-point victory over Notre Dame in the 1981 NCAA tournament runs frequently on the scoreboard of BYU home games.

Television networks love airing it, too, because Austin is a senior guard for the Mountain West Conference regular season champions, who'll face Xavier in the opening round of the South Regional on Thursday night.

"It seems like any time a new station covers one of our games, they show the clip and then they'll show me on the floor," Austin said Wednesday.

"It's something that we see a lot. Hopefully we can make a little run here and add another page to BYU history and give them another clip to show."

Some might say it's about time.

Eighth-seeded BYU (25-8) is making its 22nd appearance in the NCAA tournament, including its third in the past five seasons. But the Cougars, who reached the East Regional final on Danny Ainge's shot 26 years ago, haven't advanced beyond the first round since 1993 -- a string of four consecutive opening losses.

Austin is eager to reverse that trend.

"It's all about what you've done lately. It's been a while since we've won a game," he said. "I think we do have to prove ourselves. We do have to prove that we belong and that we can win. People aren't just going to hand that to you."

No. 9 seed Xavier has a strong postseason tradition of its own. The Musketeers are in the tournament for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, and have earned berths 17 of the past 25 seasons.

The Atlantic 10 regular season champs made it to the round of eight three years ago and three current starters were part of that team, which beat Louisville, Mississippi State and Texas before losing to Duke in a regional final.

"The tradition at Xavier is very unique; when you consider the number of years that we have been able to make the NCAA tournament under different coaches and under different conferences for so many years," Musketeers coach Sean Miller said.

In 2004, Xavier made its run under Thad Matta, who moved to Ohio State a few months later. A win over BYU would set up a probable second-round showdown with Matta's top-seeded Buckeyes, who meet No. 16 seed Central Connecticut State here Thursday night.

Miller, associate head coach under Matta at Xavier for three seasons, chose his words carefully when talking about Ohio State.

"We would be excited just because that means we beat BYU," Miller said.

"It's hard enough to get in the tournament. I really believe it's even harder to advance. A year ago, we lost a heartbreaker to Gonzaga in Salt Lake City. And really from that loss, we had a goal of being able to reach the tournament again and not have that same feeling."

Both teams feature strong senior leadership and solid frontcourt players surrounded by good 3-point shooters. The Cougars and Musketeers also finished the season playing their best basketball.

With Mountain West player of the year Keena Young leading the way, BYU had won 12 of 13 before losing to UNLV in the conference title game. Xavier had a season-high nine-game winning streak stopped by Rhode Island in the semifinals of the A-10 tournament.

"We're pretty even teams. That's what an eight-nine game is supposed to be," BYU's Trent Plaisted said. "It should live up to its seeding."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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