SAN JOSE, CA (WWAY) — Kadeem Allen played his last college basketball game Thursday night in the Sweet 16. With a 73-71 victory Xavier knocked Arizona out of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Allen played high school basketball at Laney in Wilmington before transferring to New Hanover for his senior year of high school. Allen finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds in his final college basketball game. “There has never been anybody and we’ve had some great players and kids at Xavier and Arizona that means more to me that embodies the good in college basketball than Kadeem Allen,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said after the loss to Xavier. “That’s always the hardest part when you know that his time is up.”
Wilmington’s Kadeem Allen took the praise in stride after hearing the comments from Sean Miller just minutes after his college basketball carrer ended. “I am proud of my team,” Allen said. “When you win 32 games and only have 5 losses it says a lot about the program and coaching staff and I’m just proud of these guys.”
SAN JOSE, CA (COURTESY ARIZONAWILDCATS.COM) — Not long after losing to Arizona’s Sean Miller at the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Xavier coach Chris Mack jokingly said his friend should let him win the next one.
This was no gift between former colleagues.
The Musketeers earned this one and now they’re headed to the Elite Eight for the first time in a decade.
Trevon Bluiett kept Xavier close with a big first half and the Musketeers made the clutch plays down the stretch against the West Region’s No. 2 seed, upsetting Arizona 73-71 on Thursday night.
“I personally have so much respect for Sean and his staff,” Mack said. “I know it’s heartbreaking for them because they had a special year, a special season and I know it’s tough. But today is a Xavier day.”
Xavier (30-13) fought through a string of injuries and a late losing streak to reach the NCAA Tournament, then opened with a pair of upsets. The Musketeers passed their biggest test to date with confident performance against one of college basketball’s storied programs.
Bluiett scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half to help Xavier keep up with the athletic Wildcats. The Musketeers tracked Arizona after it tried to pull away in the second half, getting a late basket inside by Sean O’Mara while shutting down one of the nation’s best offensive teams down the stretch.
Next up is their first Elite Eight since 2008 and third overall, a showdown with No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday.
“We’re all tough guys. We stuck together,” said Xavier’s J.P Macura, who had 14 points. “We’re not really backing down from anyone.”
Arizona (32-5) appeared to be in control after Allonzo Trier scored 15 straight points to push the Wildcats’ lead to six. Arizona stalled out on offense, though, failing to score over the final 2:52 as Xavier closed with a 9-0 run.
Trier had a final shot, but missed a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left and the Wildcats were unable to track down Malcolm Bernard as he dribbled out the clock .
Trier scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half and Dusan Ristic had 17 for Arizona.
“We weren’t able to get good looks down the stretch and that’s on me,” Miller said.
Xavier made an improbable run to its fourth Sweet 16 in eight years under Mack, overcoming a late six-game losing streak and the loss of point guard Edmond Sumner to a torn left ACL.
The Musketeers were the lone double-digit seed left in the bracket after knocking off Maryland and Florida State in the first two rounds, setting up their second Sweet 16 game against Arizona in three years.
Arizona won the previous meeting to reach the Elite Eight, putting Miller one up on Mack.
Arizona led 37-35 at halftime of the rematch despite Bluiett’s hot start, after turning 11 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points.
Xavier made 6 of its 8 first shots to take the second-half lead and Arizona answered with a run of its own, building a 67-61 lead behind Trier’s outburst.
With super fan Bill Murray cheering them on — his son is an assistant coach — the Musketeers battled their way back with a 7-0 run, tying the game at 71-all with just under 2 minutes left, setting up the tense finish that left Arizona short.
“We didn’t do a good enough job of defending them for the last four minutes of the game,” Trier said. “Tough way to go out, especially knowing we had a lot of momentum. Just not an easy end to swallow.