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Xavier whips crosstown rival Cincinnati in spite of turnover-filled night

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After going 0-3 in The Bahamas, Xavier needed to turn things around with the start of Big East play rapidly approaching. And after wins over Bowling Green and Evansville, their matchup with crosstown rival Cincinnati was supposed to represent another stiff test for Chris Mack’s team. But thanks to some hot shooting from the field overall and from beyond the arc, the Musketeers’ 20 turnovers did minimal damage in their 64-47 beating of the Bearcats.

Yes, in a game in which they posted a turnover percentage of 33.3% (turning the ball over on one of every three possessions) and point guard Semaj Christon dealt with early foul trouble Xavier won by a comfortable margin. Why?. Because of what the Musketeers were able to do when they held onto the ball. Xavier shot 11-for-16 from beyond the arc and 56.4% overall, and they assisted on 16 of their 22 made field goals.

By comparison Cincinnati shot 33.3% from the field and could only convert those 20 turnovers into 14 points (Xavier scored 15 points on ten Cincinnati turnovers). With the Bearcats shooting as poorly as they did, and leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick attempting just nine shots from the field (he was averaging 12.8 attempts/game entering Saturday), Xavier was able to get away with their turnover problem.

When they held onto the basketball Xavier was very good offensively, with Justin Martin (17 points) and James Farr (ten points) leading a balanced effort with five players scoring at least seven points. Turnovers were a problem in The Bahamas, as Xavier turned the ball over 19 times in two of the three games, but on the season this is a team that ranks second in the Big East in turnover percentage.

With the jet-quick Semaj Christon running the show Xavier has a capable floor general, and newcomers like Myles Davis and Brandon Randolph will only get better with more experience. Thanks to their effort on the defensive end, and what they were able to do with the possessions that didn’t end with a turnover, Xavier wrestled away bragging rights from their city rival.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: