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MASSACHUSETTS FINDS A WAY TO STAY UNBEATEN

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Everything was in place for the biggest upset of the season in college basketball.

Xavier of Ohio, a team one game over .500, was leading top-ranked and unbeaten Massachusetts by five points late in the game. The sellout crowd at Cincinnati Gardens was beside itself getting ready to celebrate the triumph of the smaller, inexperienced home team.Trouble was, Massachusetts had them right where they wanted them.

The Minutemen (21-0, 9-0 Atlantic 10) remained Division I's only unbeaten team with a 78-74 victory over Xavier on Sunday, their third overtime victory in the last nine games and their 10th straight overtime win, a streak that dates to late in the 1990-91 season.

"For us to be down the majority of the game and come back and win, that shows character," said Marcus Camby, who led the Minutemen with 26 points.

"Massachusetts made the plays down the stretch that they've made consistently throughout the year in games of this ilk," Xavier coach Skip Prosser said.

This time, the Minutemen were down 67-62 with 2:47 left. They sent the game into overtime when Edgar Padilla nailed a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left and the Musketeers (9-9, 5-3) then missed three shots on their final possession, the last a rebound by T.J. Johnson.

"It was a pretty bad feeling," said Johnson, who scored 16 points and had 11 rebounds. "We knew we still had overtime to try to come out and win it. But you want those at the end."

Massachusetts never trailed in the overtime and the Minutemen kept alive their chance to join Indiana State and Alcorn State in 1979 and UNLV in 1991 as the only teams to go unbeaten in the regular season since Indiana was a perfect champion in 1976.

Sunday's Games

No. 3 Kansas 72, Kansas St. 62

At Lawrence, Kan., Raef LaFrentz had 24 points to lead the Jayhawks (18-1, 6-0 Big Eight), who started the second half with a 13-3 run to wipe out a 34-30 halftime deficit. Elliot Hatcher had 30 points for the Wildcats (14-6, 5-3), who fell behind 63-50 with five minutes remaining.

No. 5 Cincinnati 79

South Florida 60

At Cincinnati, Danny Fortson had 20 points to lead the Bearcats (17-1, 6-1 Conference USA) in the win that gave Bob Huggins a 155-59 record and made him the school's winningest coach. James Harper had a career-high 21 points for the Bulls (8-10, 0-7), who trailed 56-54 with 8:20 to play.

No. 18 Syracuse 81, Alabama 68

At Syracuse, N.Y., Otis Hill and Todd Burgan each had 17 points for the Orangemen (16-6), who lost all but three points of a 16-point halftime lead before retaking control midway through the second half. Marco Whitfield had 23 points for the Crimson Tide (11-7), who have lost four of six.

Mississippi St. 78

No. 22 Auburn 75, OT

At Auburn, Ala., Darryl Wilson scored 11 of his 14 points in overtime for the Bulldogs (14-5, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) and Erick Dampier added 20 points, including the hook shot with 14 seconds left that forced the extra session. Wes Flanigan led the Tigers (15-6, 3-5) with 19 points.