Bluiett lifts No. 11 Xavier past No. 6 Maryland
ORLANDO, Fla. -- As Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett watched yet another 3-pointer find the bottom of the net, he turned back upcourt with one hand in the air to signal what everyone else in the Amway Center already knew.
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After a dismal first half, the team's leading scorer was spurring one of Thursday's minor upsets.
Bluiett came alive in the second half to finish with a game-high 21 points and forward Sean O'Mara added a career-high 18 as No. 11 seed Xavier toppled sixth-seeded Maryland 76-65 in a West Region opener.
"Honestly, I felt like the first half just kind of felt a little sped up. Probably just kind of excited to be out there in tournament time," Bluiett said. "My mentality never wavered. It was just, still be there for my team, make the right plays. Once I just settled down a little bit, my team kept instilling that confidence in me to score the ball."
The Musketeers (22-13) face Florida State in Saturday's second round.
Bluiett's hot spurt was somewhat surprising considering how much trouble he had during the first half. The 6-foot-6 junior was held to three points on 1-of-8 shooting, including four misses from behind the arc.
But as talented players seem to do, Bluiett shook off his slow start. With his team trailing 40-35 early in the second half, Bluiett connected on a 3-pointer. Then he hit a jumper. Three more 3-pointers came quickly afterward and the Musketeers went on a 21-4 run to open a 61-50 lead, and they never trailed again.
Before Bluiett turned it on, O'Mara was the surprise of the game. The big man came in averaging 5.5 points and had 11 by halftime, including an emphatic dunk after rolling to the hoop. For someone who doesn't score much, he showed off a polished low-post game and used solid footwork to keep Maryland's interior defenders off balance. He also pulled down seven rebounds.
"Sean played the best game he's ever played in an Xavier uniform, which, to save it for this stage, is awesome," Musketeers coach Chris Mack said.
Quentin Goodin added nine points, nine assists and five rebounds to send the reeling Terrapins (24-9) to a disappointing end to the season. Maryland won 20 of its first 22 games before stumbling to six losses in 10 games down the stretch.
Many of the issues that caused the Terrapins to get knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament and drop to a No. 6 seed were present Thursday as they suffered through multiple three-plus-minute scoreless droughts.
Melo Trimble shot 5 for 15, including 1 of 9 from behind the arc to finish with 13 points. He turned a sweet steal into a coast-to-coast layup just before the end of the first half to give the Terrapins their first lead in more than 13 minutes and a 36-35 advantage at halftime.
"We got great open looks, just couldn't knock them down," Trimble said. "Unfortunately, that's been how it is all season."
Kevin Huerter led the Terrapins with 19 points and added five assists and four rebounds. Justin Jackson had 14 points, including a huge dunk in the first half following a pretty pass from Trimble.
"I thought the better team won tonight, the team that played better," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "Xavier was tremendous the second half. Bluiett got going. I think they missed one shot in the second half."
NOTES: Xavier G Trevon Bluiett picked up his fourth foul with 3:43 remaining in the second half when he was called for a charge, drawn by Maryland G Melo Trimble. He did not foul out. ... The Musketeers outscored the Terrapins 30-13 off the bench. ... Maryland G Anthony Cowan had a rough start to the game, having two driving attempts swatted away by Xavier defenders. Cowan, one of three freshmen to start for the Terrapins, is listed at 6 feet, 170 pounds. ... Maryland had not lost an opening-round NCAA Tournament game since falling to College of Charleston 75-66 in 1997.
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