Xavier gets hot late, defeats No. 22 Creighton
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 05, 2017 08:27 AM
Xavier's Trevon Bluiett (5) drives around Creighton's Khyri Thomas (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Xavier likes its chances when it gets into a close game.
It happened again Saturday, with the Musketeers coming back late to take the lead and holding off 22nd-ranked Creighton 82-80.
Xavier, which beat Seton Hall 72-70 on Wednesday, is 5-1 in games decided by four points or less. This win avenged a 72-67 home loss to the Bluejays on Jan. 16.
''We were in that situation last game, so it was nothing new for us,'' Big East scoring leader Trevon Bluiett said. ''I think we had that same situation with them when we played them at home. We wanted the outcome to be different.''
J.P. Macura scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, and Xavier capitalized on its hot shooting late in the game and Creighton's struggles at the free throw line to secure the win.
''Any time you come to Omaha and get a win, consider yourself very fortunate,'' Xavier coach Chris Mack said. ''I was proud of our guys for not being perfect but being able to ... get down by 11 and still have the fortitude to come back. We made some big-time plays and made some big-time shots down the stretch.''
The Musketeers (17-6, 7-3 Big East) hit 7 of 9 shots, including five 3-pointers, during a 19-7 spurt that turned their 66-59 deficit into a 78-73 lead with 2 minutes left. Macura and Bluiett made two 3s apiece during the run.
''We stayed poised and stayed with it,'' said Bluiett, who had 16 points while playing on a sore ankle. ''We didn't play with any nervousness. I told the guys this is fun, this is what basketball is all about. We live for this. No pressure.''
The Bluejays (20-4, 7-4) had chances to come back in the last minute, but Ronnie Harrell Jr. missed what would have been the tying free throw, Khyri Thomas missed a baseline layup and Toby Hegner threw an outlet pass out of bounds.
Freshman Tyrique Jones made all eight of his shots while scoring a season-high 16 points for Xavier. Quentin Goodin, who took over the point guard's job after Edmond Sumner sustained a major knee injury Jan. 29, added 15 points.
Marcus Foster, who scored 17 points, hit a 3-pointer to pull the Bluejays to 79-78 with 50 seconds left. But the Bluejays missed 5 of 7 free throws in the last 5:04, including the one by Harrell with 20 seconds left, and made just 11 of 21 for the game.
''It's a disappointing loss,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. ''We held the lead a good portion of the game and then couldn't finish. We made some great hustle plays and executed our press extremely well to give ourselves a chance. Much like the game at Xavier, had they made their free throws there, they probably win the game there. Had we made our free throws here today, we probably win the game. It can be as simple as that.''
Xavier: The Musketeers beat a Top 25 opponent for the first time in six tries and have won three straight and moved into second place in the Big East, a half-game ahead of Creighton.
Creighton: The Bluejays played well enough to win but continued to struggle with free throws and are shooting just 67.9 percent from the line for the season, second-to-last in the Big East.
With 13 NBA scouts in the house to watch him, 7-footer Justin Patton twice blocked two shots on the same Xavier possession. On the second occasion, Patton swatted away shots by Kaiser Gates and Goodin, with the rebound going to Foster, who fed Thomas for a dunk to put the Bluejays ahead 66-59.
Patton finished with five blocks but was held to seven points and three rebounds.
''They didn't do anything to slow me down (offensively),'' Patton said. ''I wasn't aggressive. And that can't happen.''
Xavier hosts DePaul on Wednesday.
Creighton visits DePaul on Saturday.