Instant Analysis: Arizona claws past Xavier

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It wasn’t exactly David versus Goliath, but 6-seed and nationally unranked Xavier had a tall order to fill against the red-hot 2-seed Arizona Wildcats in Los Angeles on Thursday night.  To add to the tourney drama, Xavier coach Chris Mack faced his former employer of five years and good friend, Arizona coach Sean Miller.

Trailing with seven minutes to go, Arizona fought off a tough team in Xavier with a 19-7 run, defeating the Musketeers, 68-60.  Arizona trucks on to face Frank Kaminski and the Wisconsin Badgers in the Elite 8 in a rematch of last year’s West region final.

The Wildcats got off to a fast start but the play evened halfway through the first.  Sixteen minutes in, Arizona’s 3-point shooting started to light up while Xavier struggled from downtown and turned the ball over five times.

The teams were tied at 28 at the half with Xavier’s big man Matt Stainbrook and Arizona’s Stanley Johnson leading scorers with 10 points apiece. Early in the second, Xavier hit its first three and took its second one point lead of the game, 33-32. With seven ties and five lead changes, the Musketeers had a  51-49 lead at 8:29 in the second. Under two minutes left in play Arizona opened up its largest lead of the the game 64-57 on a 15-4 run and held on for the win.

Turning Point

Down two points at 6:18 in the second, Arizona went on a 9-1 run. Guard T.J. McConnell dished and scored after struggling early.  McConnell’s play of the game came late in the second with a steal of a Xavier inbounds pass which resulted in a Wildcat bucket.  The score consequently shifted the momentum in Arizona’s favor till the end.

Impact Player

Junior center Kaleb Tarczewski of Arizona was nowhere to be found in the first half but had a strong performance in the second, finishing the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Strange, But True

Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook looks like the guy you used to school at the YMCA on Sundays, but he dominated the paint for the better part of the game. This Big Lebowski lookalike is a baller … and I bet a heck of a bowler, too. Oh, and if you’re an Uber customer in the Cincinnati area, don’t be surprised if 6-foot-10 Stainbrook is your ride.  He’s definitely one of my favorite stories of the tournament so far.

Up Next

Arizona faces Wisconsin in an Elite 8 match-up on Saturday. Tip-off is just after 6 p.m. ET on CBS.

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