Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura lead No. 5 Xavier over top-ranked Villanova
It took three seasons and seven tries for Xavier to finally get the one victory that had eluded it. And maybe tip the balance of power in the Big East, too.
J.P. Macura got Xavier rolling with 19 points off the bench, and freshman point guard Edmond Sumner had 19 points and nine assists as the fifth-ranked Musketeers knocked off top-ranked Villanova 90-83 on Wednesday night.
The Musketeers (25-3, 13-3) led most of the way in the first matchup of top-five teams since the Big East was reconfigured, pulling away at the end against the only team they'd never beaten in league play.
"That was amazing," said Myles Davis, who has 16 points as Xavier finished with six players in double figures. "It's the stuff you dream about growing up as a little kid. You want to A, be the No. 1 team, or B, beat the No. 1 team. It's just breathtaking right now."
Villanova (24-4, 13-2) was the first No. 1 team to play in the Cintas Center, which opened for the 2000-01 season. The Wildcats couldn't overcome foul trouble or Xavier's balance, losing for only the second time in their last 18 games.
"I think this is one of best games they've played this year," coach Jay Wright said. They just played smart. They were a little bit better in each area of the game."
Xavier got ahead by 15 points late and held on with free throws. The Musketeers dominated the boards 42-33.
Kris Jenkins scored 22 for Villanova but fouled out with 8:47 left. Daniel Ochefu also sat most of the second half with four fouls.
It was one of those measuring-up games for Xavier, which aspired to be one of the Big East's best when it left the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers had beaten every team except Villanova -- going 0-6 -- in the reconfigured league and knew this was the last obstacle to challenging the Wildcats' hold on the top of the league.
"I think we have bigger fish to fry," coach Chris Mack said. "We have a group that if they continue to get better, the sky's the limit and I think our team understands that."
Sumner fell hard in the opening minutes of Villanova's 95-64 win at Philadelphia on Dec. 31 and was taken to a hospital with a concussion. He missed three games and has finally gotten back into form in the last few weeks, scoring 20 points twice in the last six games.
He made a driving bank shot to open the game on Wednesday, showing he was ready to make a difference.
"I kind of felt I let the team down in the first game because I couldn't be out there," Sumner said. "I wanted to do as much as I could."
Jenkins made three of his first four shots from beyond the arc, including one that sparked a 7-0 run and put Villanova ahead 19-13, its biggest lead of the game. The Wildcats made eight of their first 11 shots.
Macura scored all of the points during a 7-0 run -- two layups and a three-point play -- that got Xavier rolling on a 14-3 surge. Macura's back-to-back 3-pointers pushed it to 36-27.
Ryan Arcidiacono made his first basket -- a 3-pointer -- as Villanova cut Xavier's lead to 40-37 at halftime. Jenkins had 19 points in the half, and opened the second half with a three-point play. He then picked up a pair of quick fouls, giving him four with 18:09 to go and costing the Wildcats their hottest shooter.
Villanova's troubles were compounded when Ochefu picked up his fourth foul as well. Sumner's three-point play and a pair of layups built the lead to 63-52.
Jenkins got back into the game and immediately picked up his fifth foul with 8:47 to go. Sumner's free throws pushed the lead to 12 points with 8:10 go, and Xavier led by as many as 14 down the stretch.
Comedian Bill Murray was in the stands watching his son, Luke, who joined Xavier's coaching staff this season. Fans took photos with him before the game.
Villanova: The Wildcats are 1-3 against Top 25 teams this season. They've lost to Oklahoma and Virginia and beaten Xavier.
Xavier: The Musketeers have won four of their last six games against top-ranked teams, including two against Cincinnati.
Villanova: Final road game at Marquette on Saturday.
Xavier: At Seton Hall on Sunday.