Xavier played a near picture perfect 1st half in their NCAA 2nd Round game vs Pittsburgh Sunday in Greensboro and cruised to an 84-73 win over the ACC Panthers. XU advances to the second weekend-NCAA Sweet 16-for the first time since 2017. 3 Seed Muskies will play 2 Seed Texas BIG 12 Tournament Champions(28-8, with a 6 game winning streak after their 71-65 victory over Penn State Saturday). X and Texas will play Friday in Kansas City(Tip Time and TV-TBA). Xavier just owned the 1st 20 minutes-leading 48-34 at the break. Muskies got any shot they wanted (19 for 36 FG for 53%). The passing game flowed with 17 assists on 19 FGs. XU stalked the 3 point line and ran Pit's veteran shooters off. Pitt settled for a lot of contested jumpers leading to many one and done possessions while X made 7 of 14 from "3" beating Pitt at their own game.
When Pitt defaulted to zone defense after XU dissected their man to man, Adam Kunkel just shot the lights out(5-5 from"3" for 15 1st half points. BIG Jack Nunge feasted inside for 14 early and 18 points total dunking and finishing off the pick and roll.
Kunkel added 3 rebounds-3 assists and 3 steals for a stat sheet stuffing opening half. Colby Jones controlled the glass and the tempo(8 points-8 boards-4 assist). #3 finished with a near triple double(10 points-14 rebounds!!! and 7 assists).
X continued to take care of the ball despite playing fast (just 3 1st half turnovers and 8 for the game). X outrebounded Pitt 20-16. It was an asskicking.
Pitt's best inside threat Blake Hinson was saddled with two early fouls and 6-11 BIG Federico Federico played just 1 minute aggravating a knee injury. Pitt was playing their 3rd NCAA game in 6 days coming out of the First Four in Dayton. 2nd half XU and Pitt traded points early.
Muskies extended their lead to 20 at 74-54 with about 7 minutes left. Pitt attempted a couple runs and XU aided missing some FTS but no dice. Muskies closed it out late with Des Claude and Souley Boum FTs. 84-73 the Final.
Xavier got to FT line a ton(16-26). Top sub Des Claude returned to form after a rough 1st NCAA tilt vs Kennesaw State(11 points-3 rebounds-2 assists in 31 minutes). Back-up BIG Cesare Edwards helped(7 minutes-2 points and a blocked shot
Jerome Hunter continued his strong NCAA work(14 points on 6-10 FG with 5 boards). Jerome scored 24 vs Kennesaw. He's now 14-21 FG in 2 games. Xavier's now 27-8 winners of 7 out of the last 8. Muskies 10-4 since Freemantle's injury averaging 84PPG and yielding 72 points with just 10 turnovers on average.
Coach Sean Miller on the effort vs Pitt:
"We were very confident going in and played the style of defense we wanted vs their 3 point shooting. Really moved the ball on offense. I'm thrilled for Xavier and our fans and especially for our players. A group that climbed the ladder and fell short (of NCAA) the last couple years. Now they're on TOP!!"
Coach Miller looks ahead to the Sweet 16:
"There are a lot of coaches that could win with this team and I recognize that. My hope is that we have more in us. that we are able to have a great week and make what we already feel good about even better."
Xavier-Texas next Friday in Kansas City for a berth in NCAA Elite 8. In my mind, X is due vs the Longhorns. They knocked XU out of the NIT in OT at Austin in 2019. X missed a FT to win in regulation. Texas topped Xavier in Dallas 1990 in Sweet 16 denying Muskies a 1st Elite 8 trip in a wild 102-89 Longhorn win. The UT BMW Boys erased an 18 point lead to beat XU's Twin Towers Tyrone Hill and Derek Strong. Let's flip the script in KC Friday!!!!!