Xavier finishes year in Nashville

After winning in the first round, the Musketeers were stunned by Florida State

Newswire photo by Sydney Sanders | The men’s basketball team was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament after the loss to the Seminoles, but Mack remains confident in the team.

The men’s basketball team fell to the Florida State Seminoles in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament after defeating the Texas Southern Tigers in the Round of 64.

Against the Tigers, Xavier looked to avoid being the first one seed to lose to a 16-seed in the history of the NCAA tournament.

“We recognize that no 16’s (have) ever beaten a 1. That’s not really my concern,” head coach Chris Mack said prior to the game. “We don’t have to play those other 80-something games that were played in the past.

“We have to play Texas Southern tomorrow. We have to be better than them. If we don’t win, we don’t win. We’re going to give it our best shot and play really hard.”

The Musketeers played like a team that was giving it its best shot, surviving an early 16-0 run by Texas Southern to take a 49-37 lead into the half.

Though the defense struggled in the second half, Xavier still outscored the Tigers and was able to take home a 102-83 win.

Xavier was led by seniors J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett in addition to graduate transfer Kerem Kanter, each of whom scored more than 20 points. Macura led the team with a career-high 29 points.

He also grabbed six rebounds, had five steals and added a block. Bluiett was second with 26 points, in addition to grabbing five rebounds, dishing out three assists and getting a block.

Kanter scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half and grabbed five rebounds in addition to getting a block.

The win set up a Round of 32 matchup with Florida State, whom Xavier defeated 91-66 in last year’s Round of 32. This time around, the Seminoles got the better of the Musketeers, exacting revenge in a 75-70 victory.

Prior to the game, Bluiett was asked about the rematch and how it may affect the way the game would be played.

“Yeah, you know, since we played them last year, some of the things that they do (are) sort of similar. Some of the things they do (are) different,” he said.

“They’ve got a couple players returning from last year, and they’ve also got new players as well. I think with how things ended last year, they’re definitely going to look for revenge and try to give us their best shot. So we just have to be able to take their shot and withstand that and do what we do best.”

The first half was rocky for Xavier. Foul trouble forced Bluiett, Macura and Kanter to the bench for most of the final 10 minutes in the first half. As a result, the Musketeers went almost nine minutes without making a shot. Still, they went into halftime with a 34-32 lead.

In the second half, Xavier kept the lead until the final minute, even stretching it to 66-57 with 5:43 left in the game.

A quick 7-0 run for the Seminoles got them back in the game though, and they proceeded to take control and ultimately win the game, 75-70.

Macura once again led the team in scoring, this time with 17. Kanter posted 15 points and freshman Paul Scruggs also reached double figures, scoring 11.

“It’s tough,” Mack said after the game. “I’ve got a group that I love being around. I love coaching. Our seniors have been amazing, not just this year, but throughout their entire career. I couldn’t ask for a better group, a more selfless group, a group that thinks about team before self, and so I’m going to miss coaching them.”

Bluiett, Macura, Kanter and Sean O’Mara will all move on next year, but Mack noted he doesn’t expect the program to regress.

“If you think our program is falling off a cliff, you haven’t followed Xavier basketball very long,” Mack said.

Though these four are finished, the future is bright with players such as Quentin Goodin, Tyrique Jones, Naji Marshall and Scruggs returning next season.

By: Donnie Menke ~Staff Writer~