ORLANDO, Fla. – The Xavier Musketeers didn’t have the regular season they hoped to have. They are making up for it now.
The 11th-seeded Musketeers dominated third-seeded Florida State, 91-66, during Saturday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament. Their second upset in the West Region put them back into the regional semifinal round for the second year in a row and eighth time in program history.
“I’m so excited for the guys next to me and the guys in the locker room. They earned it,” Xavier Coach Chris Mack said from the post-game podium. “Our team’s gone through a lot of adversity this year, and we stayed the course.”
But the Musketeers (23-13) found little adversity Saturday as they dominated the bigger and more athletic Seminoles throughout the game. Trevon Bluiett led Xavier with 29 points while Kaiser Gates came off the bench to add 14.
Xavier, which knocked off No. 6 Maryland in the first round, hit big shots on the perimeter and then forced FSU to try to shoot long range by sitting in a 2-3 zone much of the game. Led by Gates’s four 3-pointers, the Musketeers converted 11 of 17 from beyond the arc, nearly 65 percent shooting.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, hit just 4 of 21 3-point attempts as they struggled to make up ground.
“We’ve been a very inconsistent 3-point shooting team this year, and obviously they knew that, and they packed it in,” said FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton, whose team finished second in the ACC this season. “We determined that if we were going to win the game we were going to have to hit from the perimeter, and they did a good job of denying.”
Xavier knew the Seminoles like to slash to the basket and get out on fast breaks in transition. The Musketeers made it difficult for FSU to get into its comfort zone by playing zone and also by limiting their turnovers to just nine to force the Seminoles to have to play half-court offense.
Dwayne Bacon led FSU with 20 points but he was 0 for 5 from 3-point range. Xavier Rathan-Mayes was the only Seminoles starter to convert a 3-pointer.
The Musketeers, meanwhile, got production on the perimeter from several different areas with Bluiett also knocking down three 3s. But Xavier also dominated inside, outscoring the Florida State 27-17 in the paint with Sean O’Mara coming off the bench to contribute 11 points.
Xavier’s bench outscored the Seminoles’ 27-17.
“That’s the great thing about his team is we’ve got a lot of guys who can play,” said J.P. Macura, who had 10 points and five assists. “If somebody is not stepping up, another person is.”
(1) Gonzaga 79, (8) Northwestern 73
SALT LAKE CITY – Top-seeded Gonzaga fought off a wild Northwestern comeback for the victory with help from an untimely technical foul on Wildcats Coach Chris Collins.
Northwestern trimmed a 22-point deficit to five and had the ball when Gonzaga’s Zach Collins reached up through the basket to reject Dererk Pardon’s shot with 4:54 left.
There was no call, and Collins, jawing with the officials all day, ran onto the court and was slapped with a technical foul.
Nigel Williams-Goss made both free throws, and eighth-seeded Northwestern (24-12), in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, never got closer.
Adding to the awkwardness, the NCAA released a statement acknowledging the call was missed, and Collins was sitting at the postgame news conference when he learned about it for the first time.
“I appreciate the apology,” Collins said, the venom practically dripping off his tongue. “It makes me feel great.”
Williams-Goss led the Zags (34-1) with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Collins and Jordan Mathews had 14 points each.
Bryant McIntosh, who hit the go-ahead free throws in Northwestern’s opening-round win, had 20 for the Wildcats and Vic Law had 18.
(4) West Virginia 83, (5) Notre Dame 71
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jevon Carter scored 24 points and West Virginia is headed to the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2010 thanks to the win over Notre Dame.
Tarik Phillip added 12 points and Esa Ahmad had nine rebounds for the Mountaineers (28-8), the West region’s fourth-seeded team.
Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson hit 10 of 15 shots, scored 27 points and had eight rebounds. The fifth-seeded Fighting Irish (26-10) were stopped from making their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance after entering the tournament as the only school to reach each of the past two Elite Eight rounds.
(4) Butler 74, (11) Middle Tennessee 65
MILWAUKEE – Kelan Martin scored 19 points and Butler limited Middle Tennessee’s athletic scorers with smothering defense to advance to the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals.
The Bulldogs (25-8) are going to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011, when they wrapped up back-to-back appearances in the national title game.
Andrew Chrabascz added 15 points for fourth-seeded Butler, including a 3 with 3:25 left that snapped a 7-0 run for Middle Tennessee to get the lead back to 62-56.
Conference USA Player of the Year JaCorey Williams finished with 20 points, but had to work hard for nearly every bucket for No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee (31-5).