A cold shooting night and a reemergence of defensive struggles doomed the Musketeers Friday night against the Seton Hall Pirates.
Third-seeded Seton Hall shot 52 percent from the field en route to a 87-83 win over the second-seeded Musketeers in the Big East Tournament semifinals.
Like in the meeting 12 days ago in New Jersey, Xavier started off slow against the Pirates and never recovered. A 21-4 run, stretching over six minutes, by the Pirates in the first half buried XU.
The run was fueled by Xavier's 13 first half turnovers that led to easy transition baskets for Seton Hall.
"You have to be able to deal with pressure much better than we did," Chris Mack said. "In those eight to 10 minutes they punked us, and we tried to play catch-up the entire game."
Seton Hall built a 41-30 point lead by halftime. Xavier was able to claw back to within four points with 10:43 to go, but an Isaiah Whitehead lay up put the Pirates back up six. XU never got closer.
Whitehead stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds.
"He's a monster," Mack said of Whitehead after the game. "He's the best player in the league. Put that down. He's the real freaking deal."
The Musketeers struggled from the field throughout the night, shooting 35 percent from the field and just 27 percent from three. Combine the poor shooting with a hot Pirates team and XU's hopes of a Big East crown were dashed.
"Any loss hurts," Myles Davis said. "It sucks that we had to lose in the semis when we are trying to win a championship."
Edmond Sumner led the Musketeers with 21 points and 9 boards. James Farr recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Xavier will fly back on Saturday and wait for Selection Sunday. Most bracketologists have the Musketeers as a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers will know their fate around 6 p.m. on Sunday