SAN JOSE, Calif. – Trevon Bluiett scored 25 points to lead No. 11 Xavier in a 73-71 win over second-seeded Arizona on Thursday night in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
Xavier and Arizona switched up the lead 13 times throughout the entire game. Arizona jumped out on Xavier early in the game, scoring seven points before the Musketeers could get on the board. Arizona finally lost the lead off a jumper by Xavier’s RaShid Gaston with nine minutes left in the first.
Arizona stayed close and Rawle Alkins lifted the Wildcats up at halftime with a jumper at the buzzer that gave Arizona a two-point lead heading into the second half.
Xavier and Arizona continued to trade the lead in the second. Arizona jumped on the Musketeers again in the first part of the second, but Xavier closed in for another opportunity to take the lead. Xavier guard Malcom Bernard hit a 3 from the corner and big man Sean O’Mara stuffed the ball to grab a 48-45 lead with 15:29 left.
The Muskateers fell behind again and continued to fight off Arizona standout Allonzo Trier, who kept the Wildcats on top of Xavier for a majority of the second half.
Trier went on a 7-0 streak by himself late in the second, including a 3, that put the Wildcats on top 64-61. Senior guard Kadeem Allen capped a 10-0 run that gave the Wildcats a six-point lead with less than five minutes left.
But Xavier wasn’t backing down and they went on their own shooting spree i the final minutes of the game. Xavier racked up nine straight points, starting with a 3 from the corner of the court by Bernard. The senior guard drained another two points and Bluiett hit both of his shots at the line to tie the game at 71 with less than a minute left.
Trier lost the ball on Arizona’s next possession and the Musketeers got the ball to big man Sean O’Mara, who hit a layup and gave Xavier the final lead.
Bluiett was 9 for 17 from the field and remained perfect at the foul line, making all four of his shots. Bernard followed Bluiett with 15 points for the Muskateers, including 3-of-3 shooting from 3-point range.
Trier, who missed the showing against the Zags earlier in the season because of eligibility reasons, was held to 19 points for the Wildcats on 8-of-19 shooting. Dusan Ristic followed with 17 points after getting into early foul trouble that limited his time on the court to 23 minutes.
Gonzaga missed out on two other Wildcats in December – freshman forward Ray Smith and junior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. Smith was redshirted this season for a season-ending knee injury. Jackson-Cartwright, who sat on the sidelines when Arizona played the Zags because of an ankle injury, was held to 5 points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field.
Xavier will face off with Gonzaga in the Elite Eight on Saturday at 3:09 p.m. Musketeers head coach Chris Mack said he hasn’t even thought about that game yet.
“I have no thought about Gonzaga at this point. And I’m not being flip,” Mack said. “I know Karnowski … I know Nigel (Williams-Goss). I know Mark Few has done an incredible job.”
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