Xavier beats Pitt 84-73, reaches 1st Sweet 16 since 2017
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Jack Nunge scored 18 points, Adam Kunkel added 15 on five first-half 3-pointers, and No. 3 seed Xavier beat 11th-seeded Pittsburgh 84-73 on Sunday to reach its first Sweet 16 since 2017.
Colby Jones had 10 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, and Souley Boum and Jerome Hunter each chipped in with 14 points as all five Xavier starters scored in double digits.
Xavier distributed the ball well, particularly early on with 17 assists on 19 baskets in the first half to build a 48-34 lead at the break. The Musketeers finished with 22 assists.
Xavier (27-9) moves on to play No. 2 seed Texas on Friday in the Midwest Region semifinals in Kansas City, Missouri.
Blake Hinson scored 18 points and Jamarius Burton had 16 for Pitt (24-12).
Nunge set the tone early, dominating the paint with eight points in the first 10 minutes while Jones knocked down two 3s as the Musketeers built a 28-18 lead.
The Musketeers then blew the game open with a 12-2 run behind Kunkel, who made two 3s and threw an alley-oop dunk to Nunge. Kunkel followed with his fifth 3 of the first half to give Xavier a 19-point lead with 1:26 left.
Nunge picked up his fourth foul with 9:35 remaining in the game and Xavier up by 18, a play that ended with Pitt coach Jeff Capel getting slapped with technical foul that left him barking at officials. Pitt guard Greg Elliott stepped in front of his coach and tried to box him out at the scorer’s table to keep him from getting a second tech.
The Musketeers managed just fine without Nunge, pushing the lead to 20 with 7:22 remaining on a jumper by Boum.
Nunge returned but fouled out with 3:18 left and Xavier up by 14.
Burton cut the lead to 10 with an and-one off a drive through an unprotected lane. Elliott’s 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining trimmed Xavier’s lead to eight, but the Panthers did not get closer.
Pitt: The Panthers won their first two NCAA Tournament games since 2014, beating Mississippi State in the First Four and throttling 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 because of a knee problem.
Xavier: Sean Miller has the Musketeers headed in the right direction in the first season of his second stint as their coach. After needing to come back from 13 down in the second half to beat 14 seed Kennesaw State, the Musketeers left no doubt about this one, coming out focused and ready to play.
Xavier will face a Longhorns team that has won six straight games.