ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Trevon Bluiett doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about missed shots because he knows the makes will eventually come.
After missing his first seven shots and contributing just 3 points in the first half, Bluiett found his rhythm Thursday night to lead No.11 seed Xavier to a 76-65 upset of sixth-seeded Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Bluiett shot 6 of 7 during the final 20 minutes to finish with 21 points.
“Once I get a couple to go in and get a rhythm going then everything starts to fall,” said Bluiett, the Musketeers’ leading scorer. “Everything you shoot just feels good.”
Bluiett made four 3s in the second half to help Xavier come back from a 6-point deficit.
The Musketeers move on in the West region , marking the third straight year they have advanced to the second round. They will play third-seeded Florida State, which beat FGCU 86-80, in the second round on Saturday.
Maryland, which started three freshmen for much the season, lost in the first round for the first time since 1997.
Maryland came in favored after finishing second in the Big Ten during the regular season but the Terps seemed to be one of the more vulnerable No. 6 seeds in the tournament, primarily because of their youth. Maryland’s young players struggled at times as Xavier shifted from zone to man-to-man. Kevin Huerter finished with 19 points but was just five of 13 from the field and star junior Melo Trimble couldn’t find a rhythm against the Musketeers zone, going 1 for 9 from 3-point range to finish with 13 points, three assists and three turnovers.
“I just believe in my players,” said Xavier coach Chris Mack. “Maryland is really good against man-to-man offensively. We don’t want Quentin Goodin to be chasing Melo Trimble all over the floor so zone is fairly effective at times.”
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said his players had difficulty trying to beat Xavier’s defense. The Terps went long stretches without making baskets and shot just 26 percent from 3-point range, worse in the second half as Xavier played mostly zone.
“The changing defenses gave us more problems than anything tonight,” Turgeon said. “I think they got hot and we kind of got rushed a little bit.”
The Terps also had no answer for Xavier big man Sean O’Mara, who had a career night off the bench, forcing his way in the paint. O’Mara, who finished with 18 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the field and 8 of 9 from the free throw line, dominated as Bluiett struggled and kept the pressure on the Terps’ two big men.
“My teammates got me the ball in great positions and pretty much all I had to do was throw up five foot hook shots and make a couple of back-to-the-basket moves to score,” O’Mara said.
The Musketeers also got a huge contribution from Kaiser Gates off bench with 11 points. Xavier’s bench outscored the Terps 30-13 and outrebounded them 11-4 in a game that was fairly close throughout.
“When you get production like that with those two it just makes us that much tougher to defend,” Mack said.
Xavier flipped between man-to-man and zone throughout most of the game, but Turgeon believes they played more variations than that.
“They were playing 3 different defenses and everybody has to recognize it. We didn’t and that really hurt us.”
GODD LUCK ORLANDO
Xavier has won seven straight games in Orlando, which also include two neutral site tournament wins in the Advocare Invitational and Tire Pros Invitational.
BILL MURRAY SIGHTING
Actor Bill Murray was in attendance in support of Xavier. Murray’s son, Luke Murray, is a second-year assistant coach for the Musketeers.
Xavier will play Florida State on Saturday at Amway Center.