By AARON BEARD (AP Basketball Writer)
GREENSBORO, N.C (AP) — Terrell Burden received a shoulder previous his defender and pushed into the paint, locking in on the rim for an opportunity to maneuver Kennesaw State inside attain of its first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
Instead, Xavier’s Jack Nunge descended on him to make the play that capped the Musketeers’ late defensive surge — and saved their season.
Nunge blocked Burden’s driving try at a go-ahead layup within the closing seconds, and Xavier dug out of a 13-point gap towards shocking Kennesaw State to flee with a 72-67 victory in Friday’s first spherical.
The 7-footer’s block was a part of the explanation the Owls shot 2-for-15 over the ultimate 9 1/2 minutes, reversing the momentum in a sport that had typically left third-seeded Xavier (26-9) trying befuddled.
“We didn’t really change much, and that’s oftentimes the story,” stated coach Sean Miller, again for his second stint with the Musketeers. “We just did what we do better.”
Souley Boum hit 4 clinching free throws within the closing 2.6 seconds for the Musketeers, who ran off 15 unanswered factors as a part of a game-ending 24-6 run. That was sufficient to show away the 14th-seeded Owls (26-9) in this system’s first-ever March Madness sport.
Xavier strikes on to face Eleventh-seeded Pittsburgh on Sunday within the Midwest Region.
Xavier led 68-67 when Burden — who’d been profitable all day with dribble penetration — made his transfer into the paint. But Nunge rotated over and swatted the ball into the backboard.
“In the timeout, we were supposed to switch everything,” Nunge stated, including: “He’s a really good driver at getting to the rim and I just came over and blocked it.”
Burden stated every little thing with the play ran as designed till Nunge’s arrival.
“It was a great play by him to meet me at the rim,” Burden stated.
The ball ultimately made its option to Boum, who hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left for a 70-67 lead. The Owls had an opportunity to arrange a 3-pointer for the tie, however that determined play ended when Spencer Rodgers’ proper foot landed on the sideline as he caught the inbound move.
Jerome Hunter scored a career-best 24 factors to steer the Musketeers, whereas Boum had 17. Nunge had 10 factors, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Burden and Chris Youngblood every scored 14 factors to steer Kennesaw State, which appeared on the verge of a signature March second, taking part in with an aggressive edge whereas backed by vocal pockets of followers. At one level, the 5-10 Burden received Nunge on a change, pulled him outdoors and blew previous him for a layup and a 61-48 lead.
But that’s when Xavier began its determined push again — and Nunge was prepared when Burden challenged him once more.
“We did some things early on both ends of the court that helped build that 13-point lead,” Kennesaw State coach Amir Abdur-Rahim stated. “But if anybody in that building thought that was going to be how the game stayed, you hadn’t watched much basketball in March — and you probably haven’t watched much basketball in general.”
Kennesaw State: The Owls earned their first bid with a fast climb, enhancing from a 1-28 season in Abdur-Rahim’s first 12 months. And earlier than this 12 months, the dual-campus Georgia college with practically 43,000 college students had by no means had a profitable document in its Division I period, which started within the 2005-06 season. It was a memorable season that got here oh-so-close to including a historic win.
Xavier: Five years in the past, the Musketeers had received 29 video games and reached the NCAA Tournament for the fifteenth time in 17 seasons, a stretch that started underneath Miller. But they hadn’t made it since. Miller returned this season for his second stint at Xavier after 12 years at Arizona and instantly ended that five-year drought. It’s additionally his first journey to the NCAAs since 2018 with the Wildcats.
Boum and teammate Adam Kunkel traded phrases on the courtroom — with Boum giving Kunkel a bump — main right into a late timeout. They continued jawing throughout the bench till teammates stepped in.
Boum and Kunkel each shrugged it off, with Kunkel calling it “just the heat of the game.”
“We’ve got to be on point with stuff, and if we get a little emotional, it’s nothing personal,” Boum stated, including they “hugged it out.”
After the sport, Abdur-Rahim gathered his group for a second at midcourt earlier than the Owls headed for the locker room whereas waving to their boisterous followers.
“I am so proud of this group: who they’ve become, what they’re about, but more importantly, how they respond to adversity, and even how they respond to success,” he stated throughout his information convention, which at one level had him combating again tears.
“That was a fun basketball game out there today, man. It gets no better than that.”
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap
AP March Madness protection: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25