There was nothing sweet Thursday night for the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats who were eliminated by the 11th-seeded Xavier Musketeers 73-71 in San Jose. Once again, Sean Miller’s quest for his first Final Four came up short.
— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) March 24, 2017
Arizona held a slim two-point lead at halftime but couldn’t shake the pesky Musketeers, despite a big second half from Allonzo Trier whose step back, contested three-pointer rimmed out in the closing seconds and Xavier was able grab the loose ball rebound and run out the clock as players streamed onto the floor to celebrate the upset. They’ll next face West Region top-seed Gonzaga Saturday afternoon with a trip to Glendale on the line.
“When they had the opportunity to take a shot or make one, they made them,” Miller said after the loss. “We had a couple that didn’t go in.”
The Wildcats seemed to be in control after Kadeem Allen’s three-pointer pushed UofA’s lead to 69-61 with 3:45 to play but Miller’s team was only able to score two more points the rest of the way as Xavier slowly chipped away behind Trevon Bluiett who scored a game-high 25 points.
One of the biggest storylines of the night was the Cats’ inability to solve Xavier’s rotating defense which held UofA to 43.5% shooting and just 25.9% on three-pointers.
“Equally disappointed in myself,” Miller said. “Our team never really established great confidence against the zone [defense]. In some ways that was the reason, defensively, we weren’t as good as we usually are.”
Trier lead Arizona with 19 and starting center Dusan Ristic added 17. Freshman sensation Lauri Markkanen scored just nine, seven below his average, and took his last shot at the 11:12 mark of the second half.
Xavier head coach Chris Mack got a bit of revenge against his close friend Miller after the Cats’ beat the Musketeers two years ago in Anaheim.