The Xavier Musketeers are in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season and for the first time in program history, they are a No. 1 seed. In the Round of 64, they faced the No. 16 seed, the Texas Southern Tigers, after they won their play-in game against NC Central. After a very long and whistle-filled game, Xavier claimed an easy 102-83 victory.
Throughout the first four minutes of action, Xavier jumped out to an 11-4 lead thanks to an 8-0 run. In that time frame, Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura combined for three shots from beyond the arc. After the timeout, Texas Southern put together its own 8-0 to come within one point of the lead. The Tigers took a one-point lead about a minute later after Trayvon Reed converted two free throws.
Texas Southern exploited holes in Xavier’s perimeter defense getting open looks from the outside. It assumed a 20-15 lead in the middle of a 16-2 run over 3:30. Just when everything seemed to be going right for the Tigers, Macura, black eye and all, took over and led Xavier on a 16-0 run to regain a five-point lead. He led the Musketeers in scoring during the first half with 18 points going 7-9 from the floor and 4-5 from three-point range.
A pair of triples from Xavier's two point guards, Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs, helped extend the Musketeer lead to 18 at the 3:14 mark of the first half. After Trevon Bluiett drilled a three, the Tigers called a timeout and the Musketeers owned their largest lead of the night with 20 points. Bluiett had 17 first-half points as his point total along with Macura’s combined for 35 points and seven three-pointers.
Texas Southern closed the half out on an 8-0 run over the final 1:10 with all of those points scored by Demontrae Jefferson. However, Xavier still commanded a 12 point advantage, leading 49-37. The Musketeers were productive offensively shooting 56 percent from the field overall and 60 percent from deep. Despite faltering in the final minutes of the half, the Musketeers held Texas Southern to just 13-32 shooting. Of the 18 field goals made by Xavier, 12 of them came off assists. They also had 15 fast break points and controlled the rebounding battle 21 boards to 13.
Xavier was on cruise control in the early minutes of the second half as they garnered a 17 points lead with a little less than 17 minutes to play. Macura continued to thrive from past the three-point line and heading into the first media timeout, the Musketeers were still in the lead. The scene got a bit dicey when Jefferson was slapped with not only a Flagrant 1 and during a Bluiett free throw, he was given a technical foul.
Xavier took a timeout at the 8:52 mark, harnessing a comfortable 79-61 lead. Nearly four minutes later, Xavier pretty much had the game under control sitting with a 20 point advantage. The Musketeers reached the century mark with just over a minute to go after Kerem Kanter made an uncontested layup.
Macura: 30 points, 6 rebounds
Bluiett: 26 points, 5 rebounds
Kanter: 24 points
Jefferson: 20 points, 5 assists
Bruce: 18 points
Experience matters—especially when it comes to March. That rang especially true after the Musketeers were dominant as a result of the play from three of their seniors. Bluiett, Macura and Kanter combined were just three points short of outscoring Texas Southern.
Xavier’s flashy performance should be a huge confidence booster going into what figures to be a tough second-round matchup versus the winner of the Missouri/Florida State game. That type of play by the Musketeers is exactly the type of performance they need if they want to make a deep run in March Madness.
For now, it's onto the next one for Xavier after completing a grueling 43 foul, two hour and twenty-four-minute game. Very fittingly, the Musketeers will look to continue their run on Sunday.