No. 2 seed Texas avoids another March Madness upset to defeat Xavier and set up their first Elite Eight matchup in 15 YEARS, against the Miami Hurricanes
Tyrese Hunter scored 19 points, Marcus Carr and Christian Bishop each added 18, and second-seeded Texas posted an 83-71 victory over No. 3 seed Xavier on Friday night to reach the Elite Eight of the All-Star Tournament. the NCAA for the first time in 15 years.
Playing most of the way without ailing star Dylan Disu, the Longhorns, the highest seed remaining after No. 1 Alabama and Houston lost earlier in the night, built a 42-25 halftime lead. .
They quickly topped 20 before going the rest of the way to a showdown with fifth seed Miami on Sunday night for a Final Four spot in Houston.
Sir’Jabari Rice had 16 points and Timmy Allen added 11 for the Longhorns (29-8), who kept Souley Boum and the rest of Xavier’s perimeter threats in check while making life miserable for Jack Nunge.
Adam Kunkel hit five 3-pointers and led the Musketeers (27-10) with 21 points. Nunge scored 15 but needed 19 shots to get there, while Colby Jones also had 15 points. Boum didn’t make a field goal until early in the second half and finished with 12 points.
Texas guard Tyrese Hunter celebrates after scoring against Xavier in a Sweet 16 win
Timmy Allen #0 of the Texas Longhorns celebrates after scoring during the Sweet 16
The job the Longhorns did to shut down Xavier was just the latest example of masterful work by interim coach Rodney Terry.
The longtime assistant took over in December, when Chris Beard was suspended and then fired on a since-dropped domestic violence charge, and Terry has not only kept the season from falling apart, but sent his team soaring. .
Things won’t get any easier against Miami, which posted an 89-75 victory over the Cougars.
And especially without Disu, who led the Longhorns to a Big 12 tournament title and earned MVP honors on the same floor just over two weeks ago, and who had been dominant through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Disu tried to play through a left foot injury that the Longhorns had successfully kept under wraps on Friday night, but it lasted only a couple of minutes before limping off the floor and into the locker room.
When he returned to the bench, he was wearing a large walking boot, a black hoodie, and a grim expression.
Relegated to a 6-foot-9 cheerleader, Disu at least had a lot to celebrate.
Carr got the Longhorns off to a fast start, spinning through the lane like a Tilt-A-Whirl for hard-edged buckets on the edge, and even taking down a desperate, spinning 3 as the shot clock expired.
And when Musketeers coach Sean Miller traded a man-to-man defense for a zone, the Longhorns began passing the ball to Bishop in the paint.
Hunter (4) defends against Xavier Musketeers guard Souley Boum (0) during the first half
With dozens of family and friends present, Creighton’s transfer from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City, worked. Bishop threw a dunk on Carr’s alley-oop lob, then scored another a few minutes later.
By the time Allen leaned in on a half-court pull, the Longhorns had established a 42-25 halftime lead, and had to be redirected from the Xavier Tunnel, where they were busy celebrating, to their own locker room.
Xavier tried to back off a few times, but the Longhorns never let their leader sniff in single digits. And that gave Terry, who returned to Texas after working as a head coach at Fresno State and UTEP, a chance to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment.
The 54-year-old from the small Texan town of Angleton was on Rick Barnes’ team the last time the Longhorns reached the Elite Eight, back in 2008. He was on the 2003 team that led them to the Final Four, too.
Now, he’s one step away from leading Texas on another unlikely trip to college basketball’s biggest stage.