By: Luke Feliciano ~Staff Writer~
Against improbable odds, the No. 11 Xavier Musketeers are advancing to the Sweet 16 after a win Saturday night against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.
The Musketeers are heating up at the right time, and Saturday’s game continued the momentum they got after their win over the No. 6 Maryland Terrapins last Thursday. Xavier got off to a fast start against the Terps. About halfway through the first half, the Musketeers went on a 12-0 run, but by the end of the first half, they returned to the locker room down by one. The game was tightly contested until about midway through the second half when Xavier began to pull away to eventually beat Maryland 76- 65 in a decisive victory.
Junior forward Sean O’Mara had arguably his best performance of the year contributing 18 points along with seven rebounds and a couple of nifty assists. Junior guard Trevon Blueitt also posted an impressive stat line with 21 points including five three-pointers and six rebounds. Overall, the team played well, but more impressive was that the 11th-seeded Musketeers took down the sixth seeded Terrapins to move on to the round of 32 for a matchup against a tough ACC team in Florida State.
To sum up the Florida State game, Xavier absolutely dominated. The Musketeers took an early 13-8 lead against the third-seeded Seminoles about five minutes into the first half. Halfway through the first half, Xavier went on a run and went up 22-10. By the end of the first half, Xavier was cruising with a comfortable 44-34 lead.
The offensive explosion carried into the second half when the Musketeers continued the onslaught of points that engulfed the Seminoles in a wave of bewilderment. Florida State simply had no answer for the Musketeers, who shot 55 percent from the floor and 64 percent from three. By the 12-minute mark in the second half, threes from JP Macura and Kaiser Gates increased the lead to 61 to 44.
Xavier was up by 20 at the eight-minute mark and never looked back. The win was such a decisive victory that play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle exclaimed, “and the Musketeers roll!”
Xavier would go on to win the game over Florida State 91- 66. Blueitt had a scintillating performance with a team-high 29 points. Xavier had pulled together yet another upset in the tournament, and this victory propelled the team to its fourth Sweet 16 bid under head coach Chris Mack.
An interesting storyline to follow is that the Musketeers are set for a Sweet 16 showdown against the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats, who are coached by former Xavier head coach Sean Miller. Miller left Xavier after the 2008-2009 season, allowing Mack, who had served as an assistant coach, to take the helm. The Musketeers are scheduled to play again this upcoming Thursday in San Jose, Calif.
The Musketeers are peaking at the right time, which is a key in March. The energy on the court is very reminiscent of last year’s team that had all the talent and promise to make a deep run in the tournament. James Farr called it on Twitter that Xavier would make the Sweet 16, and his wish has come true. Xavier is dancing and is taking March Madness to heart.