Xavier advances to Sweet 16 for the third time in six years with win over Georgia State
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Xavier blocked out all the chatter of a nation pulling for underdog Georgia State and ended the biggest feel-good story of the NCAA Tournament.
Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis came off the bench to combine for 38 points, helping the sixth-seeded Musketeers beat the 14th-seeded Panthers 75-67 on Saturday night.
Xavier (23-13) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in six years under Chris Mack. They’ll face No. 2 seed Arizona — a 73-58 winner over Ohio State — in the West Regional semifinals in Los Angeles.
Georgia State (25-10), whose injured coach Ron Hunter led his team while working the sideline in a rolling chair, became the darlings of the tourney with an improbable comeback that eliminated No. 3 seed Baylor.
Hunter was already a big story after tearing his left Achilles tendon celebrating his team winning the Sun Belt Conference title. He then enjoyed a father-son moment he’ll always cherish after R.J. Hunter won the game with a 30-foot shot that earned the Panthers a game against Xavier.
R.J. was outstanding again Saturday, scoring 20 points. But the junior, who faces a decision on whether to declare himself eligible for the NBA or return for another season under his father, didn’t get enough offensive support from his teammates.
Reynolds, meanwhile, dominated inside for Xavier, making 8 of 9 shots, scoring 21 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. Myles Davis made 5 of 8 3-pointers and finished with 17 points after making a pair of free throws for a 69-59 lead with 1:03 remaining.
Dee Davis made all three of his field goal attempts and went 6 for 6 from the foul line over the final 44 seconds to put the game away.
Hunter pulled R.J. from the game with 20 seconds left and stood to give his son a big bear hug with Georgia State fans rising to their feet to cheer the star player one more time.
Georgia State overcame double-digit deficits in both halves of their opening-game victory over Baylor, with R.J. scoring 12 in the game-ending run that carried Georgia State into the round of 32.
Georgia State had overcome double-digit deficits twice in the Baylor win, so there was no panic when the Panthers fell behind 17-8 in the first eight minutes Saturday night. Kevin Ware made two shots and Ryan Harrow, coming off the bench after missing the tourney opener because of a sore hamstring, hit 3-pointer during an 11-2 spurt that got the Sun Belt Conference champions back in the game.
When Xavier scored seven straight to threaten to pull away again, Harrow and Hunter both responded with 3-pointers from well beyond even the NBA’s arc to help the Panthers pull within 26-23. Hunter made another long 3 to trim the deficit to two before the Musketeers ended the half with a dunk that gave Reynolds 10 points and Xavier a 32-28 edge.
The Musketeers pulled away from a 38-38 tie with Myles Davis making a 3-pointer and Reynolds following with a dunk to put Xavier up by seven. Georgia State never recovered.
Ron Hunter, 50 had his cast replaced Friday after it cracked when he fell out of his chair celebrating R.J.’s game-winner in the round of 64. He made his way Saturday from the locker room to the bench on a scooter, stopping along the way to exchange high-fives with fans.
Georgia State: Hunter’s chair sported a slightly new look with white athletic tape wrapped around the base and legs and green cushions on edge covering the wheels. … Harrow, the team’s second-leading scorer, has been slowed by his injury for two weeks, yet the Panthers had continued to find a way to win without him.
Xavier: The Musketeers also reached the Sweet 16 under coach Chris Mack in 2010 and 2012.
Georgia State: Awaits decision whether R.J. Hunter will return for his senior season.
Xavier: Faces No. 2 seed Arizona in West Regional semifinals.