After a surprise run to the Big East championship during the conference tournament last weekend, the sixth-seeded Xavier Musketeers maintained their late-season momentum with a big 76-57 victory over 11-seed Ole Miss in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday. The Rebels found themselves in today's matchup after a play-in victory over BYU in the first round on Tuesday, but their season was cut short after the team struggled to defend inside and knock down their shots from three. The Musketeers will face 14-seed Georgia State, who upset third-seeded Baylor earlier in the day, in the round of 32 on Saturday, but for now, here's three things we learned:
1. Musketeers hold off a late Rebel run
Xavier jumped out to an early lead in the first half, holding a 36-24 advantage at halftime. Their shots kept falling at the start of the second period while the Musketeers increased their lead to 18 with eleven minutes left in the contest, but watched it slip away a bit over the next stretch as the Rebels cut the score to 60-50 at the 6:53 mark. It was reminiscent of Xavier's late-game (almost) choke against Georgetown in the Big East tournament semifinals, but Chris Mack's squad flipped the script this time as they returned with a run of their own to put the game away for the Muskies. It was an impressive display of resilience following an impressive stretch of early dominance, and should cement Xavier as a dangerous squad, especially with Baylor out moving forward.
2. Stainbrook dominates inside once again
The Musketeers were led by senior big man Matt Stainbrook, who finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. With their anchor establishing an inside presence on the offensive end, Stainbrook's teammates were left to fire at will from three-point territory, connecting on ten of their 23 attempts from deep for a terrific 43 percent clip. Dee Davis hit a game-high four shots behind the arc, totaling 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. By feeding the ball to the paint to open up looks outside, Stainbrook's smart passing diced up the Ole Miss defense en route to the big win.
3. Rebels lose their touch from three
After junior guard Stefan Moody scored an Ole Miss tournament record 26 points against BYU earlier in the week (including five 3's), the Rebels struggled from behind the arc this afternoon. All in all, the team shot just 23 percent from deep, hitting just six of their 27 attempts. Moody appeared to be the main culprit, finishing just two of his nine 3-point attempts, and the inefficiency sunk the team's best offensive weapon. If you're looking for other stat-related reasons for the Ole Miss loss, the Rebels fouled the Musketeers a troubling 21 times, and on the flip side, had just five attempts at the line total (Xavier had 21). It was a nice run for an Ole Miss team that nearly missed the tournament altogether, but it'll be Xavier moving forward after today's contest.