Chris Mack

Xavier guard Larry Austin Jr. (0) drives around Georgetown guard L.J. Peak (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
AP Photo/Gary Landers

Xavier reserve guard Larry Austin Jr. to transfer

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Thursday morning Xavier head coach Chris Mack announced that sophomore guard Larry Austin Jr. has decided to transfer from the Big East program. The 6-foot-2 guard becomes the second player to decide to transfer since the end of the season, with forward Makinde London being the first.

Austin played just under ten minutes per game this season, averaging 1.8 points and 1.1 assists per contest in a backcourt that included Edmond Sumner, Myles Davis and J.P. Macura. And with all three due to return next season, Austin likely would have found the going tough with regards to earning more playing time.

Xavier is awaiting the decisions of Trevon Bluiett and Jalen Reynolds, with both currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process without hiring an agent. Should both return, the Musketeers will be viewed as the biggest threat to reigning national champion Villanova atop the Big East.

Seton Hall beats No. 5 Xavier 87-83 in Big East semifinal

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead reacts after hitting a 3-point shot in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier during the semifinals of the Big East men's tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in New York. Seton Hall won 87-83. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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NEW YORK (AP) Khadeen Carrington had 23 points and seven rebounds to lead Seton Hall to an 87-83 win over fifth-ranked Xavier for the Pirates’ first Big East Tournament title game appearance since 1993, 2 1/2 years before he was born.

Fellow sophomore Isaiah Whitehead added 20 points and eight assists in Friday’s semifinal as third-seeded Seton Hall beat the Musketeers for the second time in less than two weeks.

The Pirates face third-ranked Villanova in Saturday’s championship game.

Seton Hall led by as many as 17 points in the first half, beating the Musketeers to loose balls and converting steals into easy baskets. And when Xavier made a second-half run, Whitehead kept answering with big plays.

Angel Delgado scored 15 points for Seton Hall (24-8). Edmond Sumner led the second-seeded Musketeers (27-5) with 21 points.

With the score tied 13-13 just over seven minutes in, Derrick Gordon scored on two straight fast-break layups to spark a 21-4 Seton Hall run. After Carrington hit a jumper, the Pirates got two offensive rebounds on their next possession, with Michael Nzei slamming home the second. Moments later, Gordon’s steal led to a fast-break layup by Carrington, who then hit two consecutive 3-pointers.

Xavier went scoreless for three minutes during the spurt as Seton Hall, which is headed to its first NCAA Tournament in a decade, built a 34-17 lead.

Seton Hall scored 15 points off takeaways in the first half. The Musketeers had more turnovers (12) than field goals (nine) at the break.

Xavier had nine field goals in the first eight minutes of the second half and started to fluster the Pirates with its 1-3-1 zone. But the Musketeers never got within one possession thanks to Whitehead. He hit a 3-pointer after they pulled within five with more than 12 minutes left, and two possessions later, after Xavier had climbed within four, he spun through the lane for another clutch basket.

He then blocked the shot of Sean O’Mara, who is 6 inches taller, as Seton Hall started to pull back away, aided by missed four missed free throws by the Musketeers.

Xavier shot 8 of 30 on 3-pointers.

The Musketeers made a late run and had a chance to pull within four with 21 seconds left, but Kaiser Gates hit 1 of 2 free throws. They then nearly got a steal, but Gordon was able to corral the ball and was fouled.

Double technical fouls were twice called in the second half.

TIP-INS

Seton Hall: Gordon, the Pirates’ lone senior, is their only player who was born before their last Big East final appearance. He had 10 points and three steals Friday. … Seton Hall had a whopping 25 turnovers but shot 51.8 percent from the field and held Xavier to 34.9 percent.

Xavier: Myles Davis went down hard when he got his layup blocked early in the second half, but he came back in after a brief rest. … Actor Bill Murray, whose son Luke is an assistant coach for the Musketeers, again sat behind the bench in an “X” cap. … Xavier was seeking to reach the final for the second straight season.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall faces third-ranked Villanova in Saturday’s championship game.

Xavier appears headed to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 5 Xavier advances to Big East semis with a 90-72 win

Actor Bill Murray, right, makes an X with his arms while watching the big screen during a timeout of an NCAA college basketball game between Xavier and Marquette during the Big East men's tournament, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in New York. Murray's son, Luke Murray, is an assistant coach for Xavier. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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NEW YORK (AP) Trevon Bluiett matched his career high with 24 points and No. 5 Xavier dominated from start to finish in a 90-72 victory over Marquette on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The Musketeers took advantage of foul trouble by Marquette star center Henry Ellenson to have a big advantage in points in the paint early and finished with a 42-32 difference.

Xavier (27-4) advanced to Friday’s semifinals to face the winner of third-seeded Seton Hall and sixth-seeded Creighton.

It will be the Musketeers second straight trip to the semifinals. They lost to Villanova in last season’s championship game.

JaJuan Johnson had 19 points to lead the Golden Eagles (20-13), who have reached the semifinals twice (2008, 2010) but they have never made it to the championship game. They beat St. John’s 101-93 in the opening round.

This was the third time Xavier beat Marquette this season with the first two both decided by eight points.

Xavier opened on an 11-2 run with Ellenson, the conference’s freshman of the year and its leading rebounder, picking up his second foul just 3 minutes into the game. He was taken out of the game but when Xavier started having its way inside and took a 15-4 lead, he was back with 14:20 left in the half. The Golden Eagles went to a 2-3 zone to try and keep him from picking up another foul but it didn’t work.

Ellenson, who finished with 14 points and three rebounds, scored eight straight points for Marquette as the Golden Eagles drew within 26-21. With 2:44 left in the half Ellenson and Bluiett got tangled up near midcourt and both went down to the court. An official review found that Ellenson tripped Bluiett and he was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul – his third.

Bluiett’s free throw and J.P. Macura’s 3 on the ensuing possession were part of a 13-0 run that gave the Musketeers a 43-25 lead and Macura hit a long 3 with 4 seconds left to give Xavier a 46-30 lead.

Xavier shot 59.4 percent (19 of 32) in the half while the Golden Eagles were 11 of 32 (34.4 percent).

The Musketeers opened the second half on a 10-3 run and the rout was on with Xavier leading by as many as 28 points. The closest Marquette got was 17 points.

TIP-INS:

Marquette: The Golden Eagles entered the game first in the conference in steals (7.8) and they are second in assists (16.3). … The 101 points against St. John’s in the opening round was the first time the Golden Eagles broke the century against a Big East opponent. They joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season.

Xavier: The Musketeers entered the game first in the conference in assists (16.4) and they are second in steals (7.2). … Myles Davis leads the Big East in free throw shooting percentage (85.9). … Seven players have led the Musketeers in scoring in at least two games this season. … Chris Mack was named national coach of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

UP NEXT:

Marquette: good enough for an NIT bid.

Xavier: faces the winner of Creighton-Seton Hall in the semifinals on Friday.

No. 5 Xavier beats No. 1 Villanova, displays tools needed for deep tourney run

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Since joining the Big East in 2013 No. 5 Xavier amassed a record of 34 wins and 16 losses against teams other than No. 1 Villanova. Their record against the Wildcats: 0-6, with an average margin of defeat of 17.2 points per game. For as much as was made about the impact of Wednesday’s game on NCAA tournament seeding, this was more about Chris Mack’s team getting over the hump against the program that has set the standard in the Big East since realignment.

Xavier got the job done at the Cintas Center, winning 90-83 in a game that changed when reserve guard JP Macura checked into the game.

Macura provided the Musketeers a spark on both ends of the floor, going on a personal 7-0 run in a contest that went back and forth for the game’s first eight minutes. Xavier’s ability to attack offensively from multiple areas, be it from the guard spots, the wings or the post, proved problematic for a Villanova team that’s been better defensively this season than they were in either of the two seasons prior.

Edmond Sumner and the rest of the Xavier guards took better care of the basketball than they did in the first meeting, a 31-points Wildcat victory (Sumner left that game after just two minutes due to injury). Sumner’s had issues with turnovers at times this season, but that wasn’t the case against a Villanova perimeter rotation that can get after teams with its 3/4-court pressure. Sumner turned the ball over just three times, and with nine assists (not to mention 19 points and six rebounds) to his credit that’s a good number for the redshirt freshman.

As a team Xavier committed just ten turnovers, nearly half the number they racked up New Year’s Eve (19). Overall the Musketeer guards outplayed Villanova’s backcourt, with Macura adding 19 points and Myles Davis 16 as Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono got off to slow starts. Villanova received a high-level performance from forward Kris Jenkins, who scored 19 points in the first half. But once he ran into foul trouble in the second stanza, by way of having to deal with the likes of Jalen Reynolds and James Farr inside (Daniel Ochefu struggling didn’t help, either), Villanova lost the one player who managed to make things happen offensively.

Some may look to use this result as an “I told you so” opportunity in regards to Villanova. Sure they won’t be able to do much about the recently formed perception of their program, which is viewed with skepticism as their last two NCAA tournament appearances have taken precedence over Jay Wright’s past achievements (Sweet 16 in 2005 and 2008, Elite 8 in 2006 and Final Four in 2009), until the NCAA tournament. But this is still a team, especially in this particular season, capable of playing deep into March given their experience and talent.

Wednesday night was more about Xavier, which showed the attributes of a team capable of going where no prior group of Musketeers have gone before. Chris Mack’s team is talented, and it is deep as well. Xavier played unselfishly against Villanova, with 24 of their 30 made field goals being assisted and six players scoring in double figures. Add in a defense that took away many of Villanova’s primary scoring options, thus forcing the Wildcats to call upon Jenkins, and Xavier managed to do enough to not only make a statement of its national capabilities but also keep their Big East title hopes alive.

And even though Xavier didn’t need much of a confidence boost, if there’s a “Round 3” at Madison Square Garden in a couple weeks they now have concrete evidence that they can get over the hump that is Villanova.

No. 5 Xavier finds shooting touch in 74-57 blowout at Butler

Xavier head coach Chris Mack talks with James Farr (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis. Xavier won 74-57. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 5 Xavier learned its lesson.

To keep winning, it must continue do the dirty work.

Four days after stumbling at Creighton, the Musketeers got back to basics and used a balanced offense and a smothering defense to run away from Butler 74-57 on Saturday.

“We played much better today and after about the first four or five minutes, we defended,” coach Chris Mack said. “Our shots were, in my opinion, really good ones because we got in the lane, we made the extra pass and I thought that was the difference.”

Whatever the explanation, the Musketeers (22-3, 10-3 Big East) certainly looked worthy of the highest ranking in school history.

After making a season-low 30 percent from the field and just 1 of 21 3-point attempts in Tuesday’s loss, Xavier rebounded by shooting 56.9 percent and going 9 of 18 beyond the arc. J.P. Macura led the way with 13 points while Edmond Sumner and Remy Abell each had 12.

But the biggest improvements showed up in other areas – defense, rebounding and effort. They allowed 36 points over the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“Everybody was boxing out and rebounding, and on the offensive end we have so much talent we could get whatever we wanted,” said Abell, who started his college career playing for the Indiana Hoosiers.

The difference was obvious.

Butler (17-8, 6-7) was held almost 25 points below its season average.

Kelan Martin, with 15 points, and Andrew Chrabascz, with 12, were the only players to score more than 10. And the top three scorers – Martin, Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones – were a combined 11 of 39 from the field as the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak came to an end.

Xavier crushed the Bulldogs so thoroughly that chants of “Let’s Go X” resounded throughout sold out Hinkle Fieldhouse over the final minutes.

“We didn’t have near the effort, the juice, the purpose defensively and we didn’t move the ball offensively and that was actually the case from the opening minute,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We mentioned that in the four-minute media and said that had to improve and when it doesn’t these things happen.”

Butler used a 9-0 first-half run to take a 21-13 lead midway through the first half.

Xavier answered with a 27-6 run that included four 3s and a three-point play in a 27-6 run to make it 40-27. The Bulldogs got as close as 47-39 early in the second half, which later became a seven-point deficit after a replay review gave Dunham a 3.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t get closer.

“You can go 1 for 21 one game, and then the next game it’s – I’m sure it was better,” Macura said. “That’s basketball.”

POINTERS

Xavier’s dominance showed up in two key stats on the box score. The Musketeers outscored Butler 36-14 in points off the bench and 36-18 in the paint despite having only two offensive rebounds. Xavier has won six of its last seven.

ON THE ROAD

Even the road has been kind to the Musketeers this season. They have won seven times in true road games, their highest season total since 2010-11. They have also won five Big East games on the road – more than they won in either of their first two seasons in the league and they have won 10 of the last 13 at Hinkle.

MOVING UP

Dunham continues his ascent on the Bulldogs’ career scoring list. After moving from 14th to sixth on the list in the first 23 games this season, Dunham moved passed Lynn Mitchem (1,798) for fifth and within one point of A.J. Graves (1,807) for fourth. Matt Howard is third (1,939) and the only 2,000-point scorers in school history are Chad Tucker (2,321) and Darrin Fitzgerald (2,019).

TIP-INS

Xavier: Former Indiana prep star Trevon Bluiett had 11 points and four rebounds and James Farr had 12 rebounds. … Each of Xavier’s 22 wins has come by at least seven points. … The Musketeers were the highest-ranked team to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse since No. 3 DePaul visited Feb. 23, 1981.

Butler: Shot 33.3 percent overall and was 8 of 22 on 3s. …. The Bulldogs only have three wins at home against Top 10 teams – No. 8 Gonzaga in January 2013, No. 3 Michigan in 1965-66 and No. 5 Tennessee in 1958-59. … Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence attended the game.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts No. 20 Providence on Wednesday.

Butler hosts Creighton on Tuesday.

Bluiett helps No. 7 Xavier cruise past DePaul 86-65

Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett, bottom, controls the ball against DePaul forward Peter Ryckbosch during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Rosemont, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Trevon Bluiett scored 15 points and No. 7 Xavier used an impressive burst spanning the halves to put away DePaul for an 86-65 victory on Saturday.

The Musketeers trailed 32-25 before they ripped off 29 of the next 34 points to grab control. J.P. Macura made a 3-pointer and two free throws during a 17-1 run over the final 3:43 of the first half, and Bluiett had two layups and a jumper to help Xavier open a 54-37 lead with 16:13 remaining.

Macura and Larry Austin Jr. had 12 points apiece for the Musketeers (19-2, 7-2 Big East), who have won three in a row since their 81-72 home loss against Georgetown on Jan. 19.

DePaul (7-14, 1-8) lost for the eighth time in its last nine games.

The Blue Demons struggled to score after Xavier switched to a 1-3-1 zone late in the first half and never recovered.

Tommy Hamilton IV scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, and Billy Garrett Jr. finished with 18 points. But DePaul committed 15 turnovers and its reserves finished with just 12 points, compared to 42 for Xavier’s backups.

The Blue Demons also were hurt by a pair of costly fouls on Joe Hanel late in the first half. The sophomore forward was called for over the back while going for a rebound, and then went chest to chest with Jalen Reynolds, drawing a technical.

The result was a pair of free throws for Myles Davis and Reynolds and a 40-32 lead for Xavier with 1:14 to go. Edmond Sumner tacked on a jumper for the Musketeers with 22 seconds left, and the Blue Demons trailed by nine at the break after leading by as many as nine in the early going.

Reynolds and Davis each scored 10 for Xavier, which led by as many as 26 on its way to its five win in the last six games in the series. The Musketeers also beat the Blue Demons 84-64 on Jan. 12.

TIP-INS

Xavier: Bluiett had two points on 1-for-4 shooting in the first half. … The Musketeers earned their fourth consecutive Big East road win. They also improved to 9-1 away from Cintas Center this season. … Xavier missed its first nine shots of the game and 11 of its first 12 overall.

DePaul: Women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno was recognized during the first half with a commemorative ball in honor of his 600th career win on Jan. 15 at Butler. … Hamilton fouled out with 5:35 left.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts St. John’s on Wednesday night.

DePaul hosts No. 10 Providence on Tuesday night.

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap