CINCINNATI — Playing on the road in the Big East Conference isn’t for the faint of heart, with just three road victories by league members this season. A second-half surge by Xavier on Wednesday night ensured No. 19 Seton Hall wouldn’t escape Cintas Center with a win.
Senior guard Dee Davis scored 14 points and freshman forward Trevon Bluiett added 13, and the Musketeers defense put the clamps on the visiting Pirates in the second half en route to a 69-58 victory.
Xavier (11-4, 2-1 Big East ), which was coming off a disappointing loss at DePaul, defeated its second straight ranked opponent at home, having also defeated Georgetown on New Year’s Eve.
“We finally finished a game strong in the second half, which we hadn’t done,” said Davis, who had six assists and two steals on Wednesday. “We were the tougher team.”
Seton Hall (12-3, 2-1 Big East) entered the national rankings this week after defeating then-No. 15 St. John’s and then-No. 6 Villanova in consecutive games, both at home.
“In this league, you’re not going to win on the road very easily,” said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard. “We beat ‘Nova at home. We beat St. John’s at home. There’s not much difference in the teams. It’s whether you’re at home or on the road.”
Freshman forward Angel Delgado led the Pirates with 12 points, and senior guard Haralds Karlis scored 10, including a pair of 3-pointers, on Wednesday.
Seton Hall guard Sterling Gibbs, the reigning Big East Conference player of the week who came in averaging 16.6 points per game, did not score until 14:10 remained in the second half.
Gibbs, who was pestered most of the game by Xavier guard Remy Abell, finished with eight points.
Xavier led by five points at halftime, but the Pirates began the second half with a 7-2 run. A dunk by Karlis and a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Jaren Sina tied the score.
Seton Hall forward Brandon Mobley hit a 3-pointer from the left corner while falling backward to put the Pirates ahead 47-45.
Both teams struggled with perimeter shooting on Wednesday, but Xavier heated up at the right time.
The Musketeers were 1-for-13 from 3-point range when Abell and guard Myles Davis hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give them a 53-49 lead with 7:32 left. Davis scored eight points.
“We had a couple good looks before that and missed,” said Willard. “Xavier hit their shots.”
Mobley fouled out with 6:01 left, finishing with nine points.
Xavier, which has won by double-figures in each of its 11 victories this season, went on a 14-3 run in the second half to assume control.
Bluiett’s stick-back put Xavier ahead by eight points. Two free throws by Davis made the score 65-55 with three minutes left.
“With about 12 minutes left, something changed for us in a positive way,” said Xavier coach Chris Mack. “Our effort … we put it all together.”
Entering Wednesday’s game, Xavier was leading the Big East in 3-point field-goal percentage. Seton Hall led the conference and ranked fifth in the nation in 3-point defense.
The two teams combined to go 0-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half before Karlis connected from beyond the arc to put Seton Hall ahead 17-14.
Karlis converted again from 3-point range less than a minute later to put the Pirates up by four.
The Musketeers were 0-for-8 from beyond the arc when sophomore guard Brandon Randolph hit a 3-pointer, cutting Seton Hall’s lead to 22-21.
Bluiett, coming off a 19-point performance in a loss at DePaul, scored five straight points to give Xavier its largest lead at 31-24.
“It’s hard to win at Xavier,” said Davis. “We take pride in that.”
NOTES: Seton Hall G Isaiah Whitehead, the preseason Big East rookie of the year, missed his fourth straight game with a stress fracture in his foot. … The Pirates are off to their best start in Big East play since the 1999-2000 season. … Xavier played its fourth straight home game against a ranked Big East conference opponent dating to last season.
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