While March Madness is known for creating magical stories, only one team each year experiences a happy ending. On Sunday, things came to an end. No. 3 seed Xavier defeated 11th seed Pittsburgh 84-73 to move to the NCAA Tournament’s sweet 16 for the first time since 2017.
Pitt did its best early on to hang with its talented foe, but a 50% Xavier shooting effort from behind the arc in the first half was difficult for Pitt to match. Runs of 14-3 and 12-2 helped Sean Miller’s group generate a 48-36 lead at the break. And Xavier never looked back.
Photo Cred: Pittsburgh Sports Now
“When you get to this part of the season, you know, it’s cruel,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said after the game. “The ending is cruel because you’re together, you’re doing all these things, and then, for everyone except for one team, it comes to an abrupt end.
After defeating a pair of slow-paced, defense-first teams in its first two tournament contests, Pitt struggled to adjust to Xavier’s fast pace of play. Adam Kunkel contributed 15 points on five first-half 3-pointers, and Jack Nunge had 18. The victory happened exactly one year after Miller decided to take the Xavier coaching job.
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Before moving to Arizona, Miller had coached the Musketeers from 2004 to 2009. He guided them to the Sweet 16 twice and the Final Eight once. This is Miller’s first participation in a regional semifinal with the Wildcats first since 2018. Xavier is the best passing team in the country. They displayed its ability to find the open man, assisting 22 of its 30 baskets.
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Blake Hinson scored 18 points, while Jamarius Burton added 16 for the Panthers. Pitt allowed Xavier to score 42 points in the first 15 minutes. They limited No. 6 seed Iowa State to 41 points on Friday. The Midwest Region semifinal game between Xavier (27-9) and Texas (No. 2 seed) will be Friday in Kansas City, Missouri.