The game was tied at halftime, the two teams went back and forth throughout the second half and Xavier even led by four with less than 10 minutes to go. In the end, however, Arizona was just too much.
The No. 2 Wildcats beat the No. 6 Musketeers, 68-60, in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, as Xavier was held without a field goal for 8:35 late in the second half.
What happened to Xavier in the final stretch?
“Well, (Arizona) just really started playing good team defense, and it just seemed like Xavier couldn’t bring the ball up the floor,” Fox Sports columnist Jill Painter-Lopez said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They weren’t getting into their sets. They turned the ball over several times and Arizona went and turned those into either fast-break layups or got some nice open looks on the other end. So that was certainly disappointing for Xavier – to have taken them to the final couple of minutes there and to let it go so quickly on account of their defense. And Arizona’s defense, too. They played well when they needed to.”
Xavier led 51-47 with nine minutes to go but was outscored 21-9 the rest of the way. The Muskies shot 50 percent from the floor during the first 31 minutes of action but just 1-of-9 (11.1 percent) in the final nine minutes.
Matt Stainbrook, Dee Davis and Jalen Reynolds had great games for Xavier, combining for 41 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Arizona, however, was just a little more balanced – and, quite simply, a little better.
Painter-Lopez said Xavier’s players were extremely upset after the game.
“Oh my goodness,” she said. “I haven’t been in a locker room like that in a long time, where every guy was still sitting in his locker – and this is probably 20 minutes after the 10-minute cooling off period and after the 10 minutes of interviews with players. I was just shocked. Every guy is still there, head hunched over, and you could hear a pin drop. There really weren’t many reporters in there. You could tell they just needed some time and they were digesting this. I thought it spoke to the fact that Xavier really thought that it could win that game – and they really did test Arizona. But it was hard to see them.”
Especially Stainbrook. The senior – who works part-time as an Uber driver and became a walk-on after giving his scholarship to his younger brother – played his final game for Xavier. He finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal.
“Certainly after the game, he had some moist eyes,” Painter-Lopez said. “This is the last game of his career at Xavier. He certainly played a good game. Started off a little shaky, but he played well. I don’t think they have anything to hang their heads about, but certainly a big disappointment.”
Xavier finished the season 23-14.
Arizona (34-3) will play No. 1 Wisconsin (34-3) in the Elite Eight this Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET.