Semaj Christon's layup pulled Xavier within three points of No. 6 Villanova with 21 seconds left Thursday night, but the Musketeers came no closer in a 77-70 loss before a standing room only crowd of 10,340 at Cintas Center. Josh Hart buried two free throws at the 19.4-second mark and James Bell added two more eight seconds later, ensuring a Xavier loss to end the regular season. "It didn't turn out the way we wanted it to, obviously. But we stuck together and we gave it our all. It just wasn't enough today," senior Isaiah Philmore said. "It's not always going to be enough. You win some, you lose some. As long as we stick together and keep fighting, I'm proud of my teammates. We just came up short." Now the Musketeers wait. While the Wildcats (27-3, 15-2 Big East) clinched the Big East regular-season championship and conference tournament's top seed with one game to go, the Musketeers' (20-11, 10-8) seeding hinges on how Providence fares Saturday at No.13 Creighton. If the Friars lose, Xavier claims the tourney's third seed. If Providence wins, Xavier finishes fourth. Despite playing without starting center Matt Stainbrook, who strained the MCL in his left knee at Seton Hall earlier this week, and having limited first-half availability from Dee Davis, who picked up his second foul at the 12:40 mark, Xavier never trailed by more than 12 points throughout. "I'm disappointed for our team because I thought our kids battled," Musketeers coach Chris Mack said. "It's the first game that we've had without Matt, obviously. We're a little bit different team. But we competed. They're a really good shooting team. They space the floor extremely well. We didn't have quite enough to beat Nova." Villanova turned on the defensive pressure in the second half, holding Xavier to 33 percent shooting in the frame, but Christon jump-started the team by reeling off five points within two minutes. Jalen Reynolds procured a steal and tipped in a Christon miss to narrow Xavier's gap to six with about nine minutes left. The Musketeers never lost their focus, benefiting from a Justin Martin 3-point play and Isaiah Philmore free throw while denying Villanova a point for 2:35. But the Wildcats buried five straight free throws and stayed ahead for good, despite a pair of Davis 3-pointers and a Ryan Arcidiacono turnover that enlivened the crowd. The Musketeers rallied with the help of 15 points off turnovers, but in the end the Wildcats were buoyed good spacing and timely shooting. Darrun Hilliard poured in 19 points to lead four Villanova double-digit scorers, and Hilliard and Arcidiacono combined for six of the team's nine treys. Martin led Xavier with 20 points and Christon added 18 points with a team-high six assists. Philmore added 15 points.
XU keeps up without Stainbrook, can't seal deal
Cincinnati Enquirer | Mar 7