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Xavier rallies in second half to defeat Cleveland State

Sportsnaut
Mar 15, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cleveland State Vikings guard Torrey Patton (24) shoots against Xavier Musketeers guard Colby Jones (3) in the first half at Cintas Center. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Five players scored in double figures Tuesday night for Xavier as it rallied from a seven-point second-half deficit to nip Cleveland State 72-68 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament in Cincinnati.

Adam Kunkel came off the bench to pace the second-seeded Musketeers (19-13) with 14 points, hitting three 3-pointers. Zach Freemantle added 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul Scruggs and Jack Nunge each scored 12 points. Colby Jones stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

D’Moi Hodge scored a game-high 16 points for the seventh-seeded Vikings (20-11), while Trey Gomillion added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Torrey Patton contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Deante Johnson hit for 11 points.

Cleveland State had a chance to force overtime, but Gomillion fell on a drive to the basket and coughed up the ball. Scruggs corralled the loose ball, was fouled with 0.3 seconds left and hit two free throws to seal the outcome.

Xavier won despite shooting just 38.7 percent from the field and getting outrebounded 42-37. It created advantages of 15-7 in points off turnovers and 13-3 in fast-break points to compensate.

Xavier advances to the tourney’s second round, where it will host the winner of Wednesday night’s game between Iona and Florida.

Neither team got off to a blazing start. The score at the first TV timeout was 4-2 Cleveland State nearly five minutes into the game. Xavier didn’t reach double figures until Nunge drilled a 3-pointer at the 10:46 mark to get it within 12-11.

The Vikings grabbed a 16-11 lead when Johnson jammed in transition with 9:35 left, but the Musketeers finally delivered a run. Kunkel’s 3-pointer highlighted a 9-0 run that gave Xavier a 20-16 edge. It held Cleveland State scoreless for more than 4 1/2 minutes.

The Vikings responded and took a 28-26 edge on Patton’s putback with 1:21 left, but Kunkel drilled a corner 3-pointer just before the horn. That enabled the Musketeers to grab a 29-28 advantage at halftime.

–Field Level Media