Sooners Down Men's Basketball in NCAA Second Round
DALLAS --- The Xavier men’s basketball team was handed a 78-65 defeat by Oklahoma on Sunday in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.
The seventh seeded Musketeers (No. 22 AP/19 ESPN/USA Today) end the season with a record of 26-6.
XU shot 7-for-22 from the field in the second half as OU turned up the defensive intensity with several different zones and pulled away for the win.
“We got beat by a great team,” Xavier Coach Thad Matta said. “They were clicking on all the right cylinders at all the right times, right out of the gate and right at the end. We couldn’t get over the hump.”
The second seeded Sooners (29-4) led throughout, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game.
Romain Sato (Central African Republic/Dayton (Ohio) Christian) was the only thing working for the Musketeers early as he scored 16 of XU’s first 18 points.
Xavier’s inability to get the rest of its offense working allowed Oklahoma to open up a lead of as many as 10 points, gaining a 30-20 edge with 7:31 remaining in the first half.
Sparked by a Jaison Williams’ (Auroa, Colo./Hinkley) three pointer, the Musketeers used a 10-2 run to close within two points, making it 32-30 with 5:28 left in the period.
“I wasn’t surprised Xavier came back,” Oklahoma Coach Kelvin Sampson said. “They are persistent. They were as tough and as physical as we’ve seen this year.”
OU recovered to pull away slightly, and the Sooners held a four point advantage, 40-36, at intermission.
The Musketeers worked the game to four ties early in the second half, with the last coming at 49-all with 11:35 left to play.
“At 49-all, I liked where we were,” Matta said. “We were able to rest some guys, but they were able to make big plays that took the wind out of us.” OU used a 9-0 run to build a lead over the next three minutes, but Sato drained a long three to stop the Xavier drought and draw the Musketeers back within five with 7:26 remaining.
The big triple did not slow down the Sooners, however, who quickly worked the lead up to 12, 66-54, with 4:51 to go.
“With five minutes to go, the one thing they didn’t do is stop defending,” Matta said. “I thought we were where we wanted to be, but their run just took it out of us.” XU never got it closer than nine points down the stretch.
Oklahoma shot 44.6 percent for the game, but the Musketeers were able to force just six Sooner turnovers while committing 17 of their own, essentially negating the Musketeers’ 38-31 edge in rebounding.
“They did a great job controlling the ball,” said XU senior guard Alvin Brown (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga). “We tried to attack them with pressure, but they didn’t crack.”
Sato led Xavier with 28 points and eight rebounds in the game. David West (Garner, N.C./Hargrave Military Academy) added 18 points while also grabbing eight boards.
OU forward Aaron McGhee led the Sooners with 28 points, and Ebi Ere added 20.
Oklahoma advances to play Arizona in the West Region Semifinals on Thursday in San Jose, Calif. The Musketeers season ends with 26 wins, the second-most in school history and the most for a rookie Xavier coach.
“Losing is always difficult,” Matta said. “The saddest part is I thoroughly enjoyed coaching this team whether it was in practice, in the locker room or getting on the bus. I guess the hardest part is knowing that it’s over.”