Cincinnati — It took three seasons and seven tries for Xavier to finally get the one victory that had eluded it. And maybe tip the balance of power in the Big East, too.
J.P. Macura got Xavier rolling with 19 points off the bench, and freshman point guard Edmond Sumner had 19 points and nine assists as the fifth-ranked Musketeers knocked off top-ranked Villanova 90-83 on Wednesday night.
The Musketeers (25-3, 13-3) led most of the way in the first matchup of Top 5 teams since the Big East was reconfigured, pulling away at the end against the only team they’d never beaten in league play.
“That was amazing,” said Myles Davis, who has 16 points as Xavier finished with six players in double figures. “It’s the stuff you dream about growing up as a little kid. You want to A, be the No. 1 team, or B, beat the No. 1 team. It’s just breathtaking right now.”
Villanova (24-4, 13-2) was the first No. 1 team to play in the Cintas Center, which opened for the 2000-01 season. The Wildcats couldn’t overcome foul trouble or Xavier’s balance, losing for only the second time in their last 18 games.
“I think this is one of the best games they’ve played this year,” coach Jay Wright said. “They just played smart. They were a little bit better in each area of the game.”
Xavier got ahead by 15 points late and held on with free throws. The Musketeers dominated the boards 42-33.
Kris Jenkins scored 22 for Villanova but fouled out with 8:47 left. Daniel Ochefu also sat most of the second half with four fouls.
It was one of those measuring-up games for Xavier, which aspired to be one of the Big East’s best when it left the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers had beaten every team except Villanova — going 0-6 — in the reconfigured league and knew this was the last obstacle to challenging the Wildcats’ hold on the top of the league.
“I think we have bigger fish to fry,” coach Chris Mack said. “We have a group that if they continue to get better, the sky’s the limit and I think our team understands that.”
Sumner fell hard in the opening minutes of Villanova’s 95-64 win at Philadelphia on Dec. 31 and was taken to a hospital with a concussion. He missed three games and has finally gotten back into form in the last few weeks, scoring 20 points twice in the last six games.
He made a driving bank shot to open the game on Wednesday, showing he was ready to make a difference.
“I kind of felt I let the team down in the first game because I couldn’t be out there,” Sumner said. “I wanted to do as much as I could.”
Jenkins made three of his first four shots from beyond the arc, including one that sparked a 7-0 run and put Villanova ahead 19-13, its biggest lead of the game. The Wildcats made eight of their first 11 shots.
Macura scored all of the points during a 7-0 run — two layups and a three-point play — that got Xavier rolling on a 14-3 surge. Macura’s back-to-back 3-pointers pushed it to 36-27.
Ryan Arcidiacono made his first basket — a 3-pointer — as Villanova cut Xavier’s lead to 40-37 at halftime. Jenkins had 19 points in the half, and opened the second half with a three-point play. He then picked up a pair of quick fouls, giving him four with 18:09 to go and costing the Wildcats their hottest shooter.
Villanova’s troubles were compounded when Ochefu picked up his fourth foul as well. Sumner’s three-point play and a pair of layups built the lead to 63-52.
Jenkins got back into the game and immediately picked up his fifth foul with 8:47 to go. Sumner’s free throws pushed the lead to 12 points with 8:10 go, and Xavier led by as many as 14 down the stretch.
Wisconsin 67, (at) No. 8 Iowa 59: Bronson Koenig scored 15 points and Wisconsin handed the Hawkeyes their third loss in four games. Nigel Hayes had 10 points for the Badgers (18-10, 10-5 Big Ten), whose streak of nine wins in 10 now includes a victory in Iowa City that should help their NCAA Tournament hopes immensely.
Zak Showalter’s layup with 1:15 left put Wisconsin ahead 64-58, and a steal and two free throws by Koenig put the game out of reach.
Peter Jok scored 21 points and Adam Woodbury had 18 rebounds for Iowa (20-7, 11-4), which fell a full game behind league-leading Indiana after shooting just 27 percent in the second half.
No. 20 Michigan State 71, (at) Illinois 43: Aerial Powers had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Tori Jankoska recorded her fifth double-double of the season and Michigan State outscored Illinois 27-2 in the fourth quarter. Powers became MSU’s all-time leader in double-doubles with 44.
She had 15 points and seven boards in the third quarter alone as Michigan State held a 44-41 lead. She had just eight points at halftime.
MSU scored the first seven points of the fourth to build a 10-point lead until Kyley Simmons hit a jumper at the 5:43 mark. Then the Spartans closed on a 20-0 run.
Jankoska finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Branndais Agee added nine points with 10 rebounds for Michigan State (21-7, 12-5 Big Ten). The Spartans dominated the glass 48-27 to make up for 21 turnovers.
Simmons led Illinois (9-19, 2-15) with 19 points and four 3-pointers.
Eastern Michigan 58, (at) Toledo 46: Cha Sweeney scored 18 with nine rebounds and Janay Morton scored 14 for Eastern (18-8, 9-6 Mid-American Conference). Mikaela Boyd scored nine for Toledo (15-11, 10-5).
Northern Illinois 80, (at) Western Michigan 70: Ally Lehman had 41 points and 12 rebounds, and Courtney Woods had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Northern Illinois (11-15, 4-11 MAC). Breanna Mobley scored 26 with 13 rebounds and Jessica Jessing scored 16 for Western (15-12, 7-8).
(At) Central Michigan 67, Ball State 66: Central Michigan (18-8, 12-3 MAC) protected a slim lead in the fourth quarter and made some crucial free throws in the closing minutes. Cassie Breen scored 22, Tinara Moore 21 and Jewel Cotton 13 for Central. Nathalie Fontaine scored 19 for Ball State (18-8, 10-5).