Xavier defeated Texas Southern 102-83 in the Round of 64 on Friday.
It was a tougher start than expected for Xavier, as they fell behind 20-13 after jumping out to a 13-4 lead. Senior Trevon Bluiett keyed the first few minutes of offense, as he scored six points before the first media timeout.
Bluiett would also score to break a 13-0 run by Texas Southern, pulling the Musketeers within five points, 20-15, with 12:05 left in the first half. His basket sparked a 16-0 run by Xavier to take the lead back, 29-20 with 8:39 to go in the half.
The Musketeers would control most of the rest of the half, extending the lead to as high as 20 points with 1:39 remaining in the half. However, an 8-0 run by Texas Southern during that time, including a 6-0 run in the final six seconds, closed Xavier’s lead to just 49-37 entering the break.
Bluiett and senior JP Macura combined for 35 points in the half and made seven three-pointers combined. Bluiett also had three rebounds and two assists, while Macura had two rebounds, an assist and three steals.
Freshman Naji Marshall, despite not scoring, was a big plus for Xavier, as his five rebounds led the team. He also played strong defense and racked up two blocks as well.
Sophomore Quentin Goodin had scored five points and dished out three assists as well.
Xavier and Texas Southern traded baskets out of the gate, with Texas Southern still trailing by 13 two and a half minutes. A 6-0 Xavier run over the next minute and a half pushed the lead back to 19 points, 63-44.
An overabundance of fouls seemed to sap both offenses of their rhythm for the next few minutes, as both teams failed to make a shot for over two and a half minutes.
The teams went back to trading baskets after a few minutes and Xavier held an 84-63 lead with 7:29 left in the game, after what felt like hours of stoppages.
Graduate student Kerem Kanter put on a show to close the game, pulling off a fake behind the back pass that had the crowd oohing.
When the final buzzer sounded, Xavier had a 102-83 victory. Macura led the team with 29 points, a new career high. He also had six rebounds, an assist, a block and five steals. Bluiett was second with 26 points and also had five rebounds and a block. Kanter finished with 24 points, five rebounds and a block.
The Musketeers shot 54.7% from the field and 45.8% from three-point range.
Turnovers continue to be an issue
For the season, Xavier has a negative turnover margin. This is not a new issue for the Musketeers. But to lose the points off turnover battle in the Round of 64, it’s clear the team needs to attempt to fix as soon as they can.
Mack, Bluiett and Macura all mentioned this in the postgame press conference, so it’s not as if the team doesn’t know it’s an issue. But knowing you have a problem and fixing are two different things. Hopefully Xavier can cut down on the turnovers before it costs them a game.
Tougher test awaits
Xavier will get the winner of Missouri-Florida State on Sunday in the late game. Missouri, the 8-seed in the West region, just had a potential top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft, Michael Porter Jr., return after not playing all season. Though he’s definitely still rusty, he makes Missouri a much better team.
Florida State had a so-so resume, but the Seminoles are a better team than Texas Southern. Either way, Xavier will have a chance of getting knocked out if they have an off day. Though it is likely the Musketeers will advance, nothing is certain and Xavier will not take their next opponent lightly.