Xavier Musketeers

Former Arizona coach Sean Miller returning to Xavier

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CINCINNATI — Former Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller returned to Xavier on Saturday, less than a year after the Wildcats fired him amid an ongoing NCAA investigation that’s stretched nearly five years.

Miller replaces Travis Steele, his former assistant who was fired Wednesday after four seasons.

“Xavier is thrilled to welcome Sean Miller and his family back to Victory Parkway,” Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher said. “Sean is an elite college basketball coach and a proven winner who understands the expectations, traditions and values of Xavier and the Big East Conference. He will bring a high level of energy and excitement to our program and he will do it the right way.”

Miller went 120-47 at Xavier from 2004-09, leading the Musketeers to the NCAA Tournament his final four seasons before being hired at Arizona. He had success in the desert, leading the Wildcats to five Pac-12 regular-season titles, but was embroiled in the investigation his final three years.

“Amy and I are humbled to be returning to Xavier,” Miller said in a statement. “Xavier and the Big East Conference both hold special places in my heart. I enjoyed my experience competing at the highest level in the Big East as a player and have always dreamed of being a head coach in the best basketball league in the country. Xavier has always done things the right way.”

Arizona has been in the NCAA’s crosshairs since being ensnared in a 2017 FBI investigation into shady recruiting practices.

The NCAA issued a Notice of Allegations last year and the case is currently going through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process. Arizona issued a self-imposed postseason ban in 2019.

Miller became the third Wildcats coach to reach 300 wins with the program and went 302-109 in 12 seasons. Arizona reached the Elite Eight three times, won five Pac-12 regular-season titles and three Pac-12 Tournament titles under Miller.

But Arizona failed to reach the Final Four under Miller and had not won an NCAA Tournament game since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2017.

Miller didn’t have to wait long for another shot, returning to a place he was once successful.

“Man, that’s great for him,” Arizona guards Dalen Terry said Saturday as the Wildcats prepared to face TCU on Sunday in San Diego in the NCAA Tournament. “We’re all proud of him. He was proud of us everything we did this year. I’ve spoken to him numerous times. That’s just real good for him.”

Miller was named Atlantic 10 coach of the year in 2008 after leading the Musketeers for a school-record 30 wins and to the Elite Eight. Xavier went to the Sweet 16 the following season.

Brockington scores 30, Iowa State beats No. 25 Xavier 82-70

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NEW YORK- Izaiah Brockington scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half, and Iowa State beat No. 25 Xavier 82-70 on Wednesday night in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Tyrese Hunter added 19 points for Iowa State (5-0), Gabe Kalscheur scored 12 points and George Conditt had 10.

Jack Nunge scored 24 points off the bench for Xavier (4-1). Colby Jones had 11 points and Dwon Odom scored 10.

Iowa State trailed 39-38 at halftime but took control with a 24-9 run over the first 7:29 of the second half that included 13 points by Brockington. Xavier cut the deficit to five points, but didn’t get closer as Iowa State closed out the game on a 16-9 run.

The Musketeers pounded the ball inside, scoring 28 of their 39 first-half points in the paint, but were flustered by Iowa State’s defense in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa State: Big 12 Conference rivals likely won’t look forward to the trip to Ames to face Iowa State’s lockdown defense. Entering the game, the Cyclones had limited three of their first four opponents to 60 points or fewer, and they bottled up Xavier in the second half Wednesday.

Xavier: Eleven of the 16 players on the Musketeers’ roster are seniors or juniors, and the experience showed as Xavier rallied from big deficits in each half. But Xavier has to make shots for its methodical approach to work, and the Musketeers went 9 of 25 from the field in the second half, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.

UP NEXT

The winner of Wednesday night’s game between No. 9 Memphis and Virginia Tech faces Iowa State on Friday, while the loser meets Xavier.

Xavier leads wire to wire, beats No. 19 Ohio State 71-65

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CINCINNATI- Jack Nunge had 14 points and 14 rebounds, Paul Scruggs also scored 14 points and Xavier led wire to wire in knocking off No. 19 Ohio State 71-65 on Thursday night.

Jamari Wheeler hit a 3-pointer to get Ohio State within two points with 17 seconds left, the closest the Buckeyes had been all evening.

A pair of free throws by Scruggs pushed the Xavier lead back to four. Scruggs then stole Ohio State’s inbounds pass and sank two more free throws to ice the game for the Musketeers (3-0).

“When you got a leader like Paul Scruggs, a closer like Paul Scruggs, it keeps everybody kind of right here, even keeled,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “There was no panic (against) Ohio State. I give Paul a lot of credit for closing off the game.”

Nate Johnson had 12 points and Adam Kunkel added 10 for Xavier.

“For us to be able to get Ohio State here was an incredible opportunity for us,” Steele said. “They got a really good team. I told our guys before the game I felt like this was a statement opportunity for us. I felt like we played towards our identity.”

E.J. Liddell had a season-low 17 points for the Buckeyes (3-1), who had dropped two spots in the AP Top 25 after two closer-than-expected games to start the season. Meechie Johnson Jr. had 14 points and Kyle Young scored 12.

Neither team shot particularly well. Ohio State began the game shooting 1-for-10. Xavier made 40% of its shots for the game, and the Buckeyes shot 37.7%. The Musketeers were 5 for 24 (20.8%) from beyond the arc.

Ohio State was out-rebounded 43-35.

“We have to play with more force on both ends,” Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann said. “Honestly, it was the glass tonight. It the was the glass, and our inability in the first half to get the kind of quality shot we need to.”

The Musketeers led by nine at the half. They were up by as much as 11 points in the second half, but the Buckeyes began chipping away in the final five minutes and looked as if they might pull it out when Wheeler hit the big 3.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: This was the worst shooting game for the Buckeyes thus far. They got off to a slow start, shooting 33% in the first half, and couldn’t catch up.

“It doesn’t feel good right now. It feels terrible,” Holtmann said. “But I’m glad we were a part of it. I’m glad our young guys got to experience this environment because, hopefully, it will prepare us more for what our league is.”

Xavier: The Musketeers have played teams close in winning their first three games. They prevailed by three points in the season opener against Niagara and erased a second-half deficit to beat Kent State the last time out.

“It was definitely awesome out there,” Nunge said. “We knew the kind of fight we had coming in with Ohio State. They’re a ranked team, they’re the big state school. We knew we wanted to come out and show them what Xavier basketball is all about.”

CATCHING UP

Xavier improved to 2-3 against Ohio State. It was the first meeting between the schools since the Buckeyes’ 78-71 overtime win in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

“It means a lot,” Scruggs said. “This win was for us, but it’s also for the alumni. We won this game for them.”

TOUGH DEFENDER

Liddell had a career-high eight blocked shots, the most in a game by an Ohio State player since Dallas Lansdale had eight in 2010.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Buckeyes likely will drop again. Xavier, on the strength of this win, could get enough extra votes to sneak into the poll.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: Faces Seton Hall on Monday in Fort Myers, Florida.

Xavier: Hosts Norfolk State on Sunday.

No. 3 Villanova’s next 3 games postponed due to COVID-19

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No. 3 Villanova’s next three games have been postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the program.

The Wildcats (8-1) were scheduled to play Tuesday at DePaul, Friday vs. Marquette, and Jan. 13 at Xavier.

No makeup dates have been announced.

Coach Jay Wright announced last week he had tested positive for COVID-19 and the program paused all activities. Wright was scheduled to return to practice on Tuesday.

Tyrique Jones leads No. 18 Xavier To 73-51 victory over Towson

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Tyrique Jones had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead No. 18 Xavier to a 73-51 victory over Towson on Thursday night in the Charleston Classic.

The Musketeers are 5-0 for the second time in three seasons and first time since 2018 when they won the Big East Conference regular-season title and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This Xavier group just might have the pieces for another special season as long as Jones keeps playing like this. The dynamic 6-foot-9 senior had a rim-rattling jam early in the second half and finished with the second double-double of the season and 12th of his college career.

The Musketeers will face either Buffalo or UConn in the eight-team tournament Friday night for a spot in the championship game.

Xavier opened a double-digit lead with a 15-6 run midway through the opening half. Scruggs had a pair of baskets to start things, Dahmir Bishop hit a three, Scruggs added another bucket and Carter finished things with two fouls and an inside basket to put the Musketeers up 15-6.

The Tigers (2-3) struggled against Xavier’s relentless pressure, turning the ball over on three straight positions. They weren’t much more successful when they held onto the ball, going 1 of 14 from the field during one brutal stretch of the period.

Towson got a bit of a lift heading to the locker room as Jakigh Dottin made about a 35-footer as time ran out to draw his team to 31-20 at the break. Still, the Tigers could not get their shots to fall, finishing just 18-of-59 shooting (30.5 percent).

Jason Carter finished with 13 points and Bryce Moore added 12 points for Xavier, including a four-point play with 9:50 to go.

BIG PICTURE

Towson: The Tigers won’t be back home for a game until Dec. 10. They’ll be very used to each other after this seven-game stretch that started at with a loss at Florida a week ago and ends at Vermont on Dec. 7.

Xavier: The Musketeers first four wins all came at home and, while they were not all easy, there was a comfort to not leaving the gym. This week in Charleston is a big test for Xavier, which could wind up playing Florida or Miami in its tournament game Sunday night — either for third place or for its third in-season title in the past five seasons.

UP NEXT

Towson will play the Buffalo-UConn loser Friday.

Xavier will play the Buffalo-UConn winner Friday.

No. 21 Xavier rallies past Missouri 63-58 in overtime

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CINCINNATI — Xavier had made only two 3-pointers all game, none in the second half. Down by three in the closing seconds, the 21st-ranked Musketeers desperately needed somebody to finally hit from long range.

Naji Marshall swished one from the top of the key , and Xavier was finally on its way.

Marshall’s clutch 3 tied it in regulation, and he made a pair of free throws in overtime Tuesday night as Xavier overcame poor shooting and rallied for a 63-58 victory over Missouri.

The Musketeers (3-0) let a 15-point lead slip away because they couldn’t hit an outside shot, going only 3 of 21 from beyond the arc. Marshall’s 3-pointer — Xavier’s only one in the second half — tied it 51-all with 27.1 seconds left.

When they absolutely had to have a 3, Xavier let its best player shoot away.

“I knew it was going in,” guard Paul Scruggs said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Missouri (2-1) missed a 3 at the end of regulation and never led in overtime, losing to a ranked team for the seventh time in a row. Dru Smith led the Tigers with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Scruggs hit a pair of baskets in overtime as Xavier built a seven-point lead and held on. Quentin Goodin made three free throws in the final 20 seconds to close it out.

Marshall’s big shot made it possible. He finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and a team-high three assists.

“He’s talented, he’s skilled, he has size, he made the big shot at the end of regulation,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Any time you have a guy with that skill package that you can run your offense through, he’s tough to guard.”

Missouri had a setback in the opening minutes. Top scorer Jeremiah Tilmon picked up two fouls in the first 2:56 and spent the rest of the half on the bench. He finished with six points.

“It was depressing,” said Xavier Pinson, who had nine points.

Xavier led by as many as 15 in a ragged first half. Missouri went eight minutes between field goals and had 13 turnovers, but Xavier couldn’t take full advantage because of its woeful outside shooting. Goodin’s steal and dunk capped an 11-2 spurt that gave Xavier its biggest lead, 27-12.

Tilmon had a layup and Smith scored twice off drives to the basket during a 14-point run that gave Missouri a 38-34 lead, its first since the opening minutes. Xavier went more than seven minutes without scoring while the Tigers rallied .

“That’s what we call a rock fight,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, it was going to be ugly at times, but I was really proud of our guys for handling the adversity we went through.”

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: The Tigers’ tough times against ranked teams continue. They haven’t beaten a Top 25 team since Feb. 13, 2018, when they defeated No. 21 Texas A&M 62-58.

Xavier: The Musketeers have struggled to hit 3s — an issue last season as well. They are only 13 of 63 on 3-pointers this season.

“We had some wide-open looks,” Steele said. “We’ll take those shots.”

POINTS TOUGH TO COME BY

Last season, Xavier lost at Missouri 71-56, the Musketeers’ second-fewest points of the season. They managed 51 in regulation Tuesday.

SCRUGGS BACK

Scruggs sat out the previous game with a sprained knee, costing the Musketeers one of their top guards. He started Tuesday, played 40 minutes and scored 12 points.

CARTER IMPRESSES

Xavier transfer forward Jason Carter played 38 minutes and had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Missouri hosts Wofford on Monday and Morehead State two days later as part of the 2019 Hall of Fame Classic.

Xavier hosts Missouri State on Friday, completing a four-game homestand to open the season.