Xavier dominates Pitt to move to the Sweet 16 in March Madness
Jack Nunge scored 18 points, Adam Kunkel added 15 on five 3-pointers in the first half, and No. 3 seed Xavier beat 11th seed Pittsburgh 84-73 on Sunday to reach his first Sweet 16 since 2017.
Colby Jones had 10 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, and Souley Boum and Jerome Hunter each added 14 points as all five Xavier starters scored in double figures.
Xavier distributed the ball well, especially early on with 17 assists from 19 baskets in the first half to build a 48-34 lead at the break. The Musketeers finished with 22 assists.
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Xavier (27-9) will face second-seeded Texas on Friday in the Midwest Region semifinals in Kansas City, Missouri.
Blake Hinson had 18 points and Jamarius Burton had 16 for Pitt (24-12).
Nunge set the tone early, dominating the paint with eight points in the opening 10 minutes while Jones knocked down two 3s as the Musketeers took a 28-18 lead.
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The Musketeers then opened the game with a 12-2 run behind Kunkel, who rolled two 3s and threw an alley-oop dunk at Nunge. Kunkel followed with his fifth 3 of the first half to give Xavier a 19-point lead with 1:26 to go.
Nunge committed his fourth foul with 9:35 left in the game and Xavier by 18, a game that ended with Pitt coach Jeff Capel being slapped with a technical foul that left him barking against the officials. Pitt goaltender Greg Elliott got in front of his coach and tried to put him at the scorer’s table to prevent him from getting a second technician.
The Musketeers did very well without Nunge, pushing the lead to 20 with 7:22 remaining on a Boom jump.
Nunge came back but fouled with 3:18 to go and Xavier by 14.
Burton cut the lead to 10 with one and one on an unprotected lane. Elliott’s 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining cut Xavier’s lead to eight, but the Panthers didn’t close.
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Pitt: The Panthers have won their first two NCAA Tournament games since 2014, beating Mississippi State in the top four and choking No. 6 Iowa State in the first round. After holding the Cyclones to 41 points on Friday, Pitt allowed Xavier to score 42 in the first 15 minutes. It didn’t help that big man Federiko Federiko played less than a minute due to a knee problem.
Xavier: Sean Miller has the Musketeers headed in the right direction in the first season of his second stint as coach. After having to come back from 13 in the second half to beat 14th seed Kennesaw State, the Musketeers left no doubt on this one, emerging focused and ready to play.
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Xavier will face a Longhorns team that has won six games in a row.