NCAA Tournament

No. 1 seed Xavier tops Texas Southern, will face Florida State in Round of 32

Xavier's Trevon Bluiett, who scored 26 points, tried to drive past Texas Southern's Donte Clark in the first half of Friday's first-round NCAA Tournament game at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Xavier's Trevon Bluiett, who scored 26 points, tried to drive past Texas Southern's Donte Clark in the first half of Friday's first-round NCAA Tournament game at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. along@kcstar.com

Xavier beat Texas Southern 102-83 on Friday, keeping No. 16 seeds winless in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 before UMBC defeated No. 1 Virginia 74-54.

The Tigers, who won a play-in game earlier this week to face Xavier, went ahead midway through the first half.

A 16-0 Texas Southern run gave the Tigers a 20-13 lead, but the Musketeers responded with a 16-0 run of their own. J.P. Macura, who scored 12 of those points, capped the run with one of his five threes, four of which came in the first half.

Marcura scored a team-high 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting. Trevon Bluiett finished with 26 points, including nine from the free-throw line. Musketeers center Kerem Kanter added 24 points.

In the first half, the trio outscored Texas Southern 39-37.

All three are senior starters for a Xavier program that is making its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. This is the third straight year the Musketeers will play in the Round of 32. They will face Florida State on Sunday.

“They’ve been in this moment before,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said of Bluiett and Macura. “We’ve talked a lot about experience mattering. I thought those guys did a really good job of getting us off to a great start. It’s something I’ve grown accustomed to.”

Damontrae Jefferson led Texas Southern with 20 points on 22 shots. The 5-foot-7 point guard gave the Tigers a bit of life heading into halftime, as he trimmed the Xavier lead to 12 by completing two and-one layups in the final 6 seconds. The final one came after he pressed and plucked the ball from a Musketeer.

Texas Southern never cut the lead to single digits in the second half, though, and Xavier at one point led by as much as 24.

The game included 42 fouls and 59 free-throw attempts between the two teams. Mack said he thought Texas Southern did a good job of making the game “really choppy.”

“It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing by any means,” Mack said. “But we will play on Sunday.”

Mack is not sure he will have starter Naji Marshall for that game, though. Marshall, a freshman forward who averages 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds, left the game early in the second half and did not return. Mack said that Marshall’s “back locked up.”

“Well, I’m concerned, but I’m also hopeful,” Mack said. “Outside of that, I haven’t really gotten a definitive answer. … It’s muscular. He dealt with it earlier in the year.”

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