Xavier cruises past Wisconsin

BOISE, Idaho-Xavier needed only a small window to crack Wisconsin’s plodding defense and finally pull ahead. Once the Musketeers broke through, they smothered any comeback, holding the Badgers to 25 percent shooting in the second half of a 60-49 victory yesterday in the East Regional. ‘We didn’t lose faith in what got us here,’ Xavier coach Sean Miller said. ‘We reminded our team that we have been against styles like that and it requires a lot of tough-mindedness and patience.’ Wisconsin controlled the pace for the first 30 minutes before Xavier pulled away with a 13-4 run, then hung on with free throws and defense even tighter than Wisconsin’s. The Badgers (20-13) were 16-for-56 from the floor and made three of 20 3-point attempts. ‘Defense. That’s our identity. We’re not going to score 90 points and outshoot people and we realize that,’ said Derrick Brown, one of two Xavier players to score in double figures. B.J. Raymond was the other with 15 points, scoring 12 in the second half, and C.J. Anderson pulled down eight rebounds for fourth-seeded Xavier, which advanced despite a poor shooting day. The Musketeers were 18-for-46 from the floor and just 18-for-26 from the foul line. The Musketeers (27-7), an Elite Eight team a year ago, advances to play top-seeded Pittsburgh – Miller’s alma mater – Thursday in the round of 16 in Boston. ‘We knew we would have to play a great game to advance,’ Miller said. ‘In this tournament, make no mistake, whoever is on that line above or below you is going to be a very good team.’ Wisconsin (20-13), which came back from a 12-point halftime deficit to beat Florida State in overtime on Friday, kept Xavier off balance, but the tight defense wasn’t quite enough to overcome 29 percent shooting. ‘It’s a whole different story if guys knock down just a few shots,’ Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. Marcus Landry had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Wisconsin, and Trevon Hughes had 17 points, but was just 3-for-16 from the floor two days after his acrobatic shot beat Florida State in the first round. Wisconsin patiently worked the shot clock and even led by a point with about 9:10 remaining before the Musketeers cracked through. ‘They took the momentum from us and they never looked back from there,’ Hughes said. Dante Jackson hit two free throws to give Xavier a 38-37 lead with 8:57 left, starting the 13-4 run that put the Badgers away. After Jackson’s foul shots, Jamel McLean blocked a shot by Landry, then ran down to the other end and took a pass from Terrell Holloway for a two-handed dunk and a 40-37 lead with about 8:30 left. McLean had another power dunk that put Xavier up 44-39 with 6:06 remaining, and after Landry answered with a dunk for Wisconsin, Jackson banked in a shot and Raymond hit a 3-pointer that stretched the lead to 49-41 – the largest of the game to that point. ‘They did a good job of defending us and we did a good job of defending them,’ Raymond said. ‘We played fast, but we also played on the right side of the ball, which is our defense.’ Tim Jarmusz hit a 3-pointer for the Badgers, but Kenny Frease got a layup to roll in and Brown hit two free throws for a 53-44 lead with only 1:42 remaining. Xavier didn’t make field goal for the first three minutes of the second half – even a dunk attempt by Love bounced off the rim – as the Badgers opened with a 6-1 run. Hughes scored on a reverse layup for the first points of the half, then spun 360 degrees for another layup that put Wisconsin up 33-26 and prompted a time out by Xavier with 17:15 left in the game. Wisconsin led 27-25 after an ugly first half that was just fine with the Badgers, who slowed the game by working the shot clock and keeping the Musketeers from getting any transition opportunities. Xavier was 8-for-23 in the half, only slightly better than Wisconsin’s 8-for-24 performance. Hughes missed seven of his first eight shots, but made all eight of his free throws and had 10 points at halftime. Xavier committed eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes and didn’t score for the first four minutes of the game.