Mar 24, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Rodney Terry cheers from the bench during the first half of an NCAA tournament Midwest Regional semifinal against the Xavier Musketeers at T-Mobile Center. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Texas crushes Xavier 83-71, advances to first Elite Eight since 2008
No. 2-seed Texas 83, No. 3-seed Xavier 71
The second-seeded Texas Longhorns dominated No. 3-seed Xavier from wire-to-wire en route to an 83-71 win that punched their ticket to the Elite Eight. With the win, Texas advances to take on No. 5-seed Miami on Sunday in Kansas City.
The Longhorns showcased their depth in the win, as four different players – including two off the bench – scored 14 or more points. Tyrese Hunter led Texas with 19 points, while Christian Bishop and Marcus Carr scored 18, and Sir’Jabari Rice added 16. Adam Kunkel led Xavier’s futile attack with 21 points, but the Musketeers looked thoroughly overmatched as a team.
Texas shot the basketball exceptionally well in both halves, finishing 7-for-12 from beyond the arc and shooting 52.5% overall from the field.
Rodney Terry, who took over for fired head coach Chris Beard earlier this season, became the first interim head coach to lead his team to an Elite Eight appearance since Steve Fisher did so at Michigan in 1989. Texas’ basketball program last reached the Elite Eight in 2008, when it lost to Memphis.
Texas played Friday night’s game without forward Dylan Disu, but it became clear in the early going that the Longhorns weren’t going to be stopped regardless.
The Longhorns dominated the first few minutes of action with their defense, physically keeping Xavier’s offense from finding good shots while jumping out to an 8-2 lead after three minutes. The Musketeers were held to just one-of-nine from the field to open the game. Before long, the Horns extended their lead to 14-5 with 13 minutes to go.
Xavier used a 5-0 run to quickly narrow the gap to four, but Texas re-extended its lead to eight on an off-balance, end-of-clock 3-pointer by Marcus Carr with 10 minutes to go in the half. Carr was red-hot for the game’s early moments, scoring 11 of the Longhorns’ first 20 points while making four of his first seven baskets.
Texas’ lead reached double digits for the first time with six minutes to go in the half when Sir’Jabari Rice’s dunk in transition pushed the Longhorns’ lead to 26-16. When Christian Bishop threw down a dunk of his own after an alley-oop pass at the 5:09 mark of the half, Sean Miller called timeout with his Musketeers trailing 30-18.
Xavier shot 50% on field goals throughout the season and entered Friday night’s game shooting 47% for the tournament – but 16 minutes into the first half, Musketeers had made just 7-of-28 from the field (25%).
Texas’ dominant first half ended with an exclamation point, as Timmy Allen’s nearly-half court heave at the buzzer banked through the net to give the Longhorns their largest lead of the night. Heading into the locker room, Texas led 42-25. The Horns shot 53.1% from the field in the first half, while Xavier shot just 27.3%, pushing the Musketeers up against the ropes with still 20 minutes to play. Marcus Carr paced the Longhorns in the opening half with 15 points.
Tyrese Hunter made his second 3-pointer of the night at the 16-minute mark, extending Texas’ lead to a game-high 19 points at 52-33. Hunter improved to 3-for-3 from beyond the arc before long, and the Longhorns’ lead ballooned to 61-41.
Texas built its 20-point lead on its bread and butter, outsourcing Xavier in bench points 18-1. During the regular season, the Longhorns led the nation in points off the bench with more than 27 per game.
Both teams were chippy with each other throughout the night, often exchanging words after possessions until things finally boiled over for Xavier with 11 minutes left. Adam Kunkel was called for a flagrant one foul as his frustration got the best of him, and Texas turned the extra possession into three points and a 65-41 advantage.
Xavier used a brief run to pull back within 17; Texas pushed the lead back out to 20 to answer every Musketeer punch as the game entered its final minutes. Sean Miller’s team finally pulled within 13 points at the 1:11 mark, but it was far too little and too late.
Texas easily covered the four-point spread, and the game went over the total, which was set at 148.5.
Texas came away with an 83-71 win when all was said and done and are now one win away from a potential Final Four appearance in Houston.