Hoo boy, the agony.
After over a decade of losing seasons in Division I, after one win three years ago, after getting the team to buy in after a legacy of almost nothing, after coming out of absolutely nowhere to win the league this year, after taking down Liberty twice to finally make the field in dramatic fashion.
After playing so well against Xavier for so long, they deserved an NCAA Tournament win.
It just wasn’t meant to be in the end.
“I am so proud of this group, who they’ve become, what they’re about, but more importantly, how they respond,” Owls head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said after the game.
Making their first appearance on the biggest stage, the Kennesaw State Owls made one heck of an impression. After falling behind by nine points early, the Owls roared back to a seven-point lead going into halftime, with help from Chris Youngblood and Terrell Burden, and brought the crowd and momentum with them. The crowd continued to back them as their lead grew to 13 early in the second half. Each time Xavier responded, the Owls hit shot after shot to respond. The lead stood at 61-48 when Terrell Burden scored at the 10-minute mark for Kennesaw State.
The crowd was rocking. “You don’t want to go to war with the owls” was echoing through the stadium and was audible on the broadcast. You could feel the upset coming.
Suddenly, it all went bad. Over the next several minutes, the Musketeers converted their chances and drew fouls, while Kennesaw State missed shots and turned the ball over. At the four-minute mark, Xavier found itself with a 63-61 lead after scoring 15 unanswered points over a six-minute span. The Owls came up empty on 10 straight possessions, and at one point missed 10 straight field goal attempts.
Asked if Xavier did something or if the Owls stopped doing something that caused the huge run, Abdur-Rahim said, “That’s just the game. Basketball is a game of runs … if anyone in the building thought [the 13-point lead] was going to be how the game stayed, you haven’t watched much basketball in March.”
Still, they didn’t quit. Desmond Robinson hit a jumper to put them up by a point at 65-64. After Xavier drilled a 3 on its next possession, Kasen Jennings hit a difficult contested layup in the paint to tie it.
Both teams missed opportunities on their next possessions. Musketeer star Souley Boum missed a wide open uncontested layup on their end. On the Owls’ next possession, Terrell Burden snaked around defenders and…
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