From the tip, this looked like it was going to be a back-and-forth battle. Romain Sato (15/4/3) drilled a jumper on 2002’s opening possession, but Trevon Bluiett (15/10/2) and Matt Stainbrook (16/5/2) scored the next two times down for 2015 to bring the more recent Muskies back into the lead. The teams traded the advantage back and forth, with an Alvin Brown (3/2/1) three and a couple of free throws by David West (17/11/0) pulling the game to 11-10 in favor of 2015 with 10 minutes to play in the half.
Then the 2015 Muskies got hot in a hurry. James Farr (3/1/0) drilled a three, Trevon reeled off 5 straight, and Dee Davis (16/1/5) drilled a long jumper. The 2002 Muskies were able to respond and start trading baskets, but by the time Myles Davis (10/6/5) nailed a three from the left corner, it was 28-19 with 6:06 left in the half, and it looked like 2015 was in control.
With the game slipping away, the All-American stepped up. David West keyed a 14-5 run by scoring 9 of his game-high 17 in the final 6:06 before the intermission. He shot 4-5/0-0/1-2 and ripped down 4 boards to completely erase the deficit, and only a nifty little lefty runner by Matt Stainbrook was enough to allow 2015 to go into the half tied. With 20 minutes left on the clock, it was all to play for between a couple of juggernauts in Xavier history.
The first half started with a harbinger of things to come, as Dee Davis drilled a three and David Young (16/8/2) answered with a tough shot in the lane. Remy Abell (7/3/3) and Matt Stainbrook (!) answered with threes, as a 2015 team that shot 8-15 from beyond the arc in the game opened up the taps from deep to try to establish some separation. 2002 scrapped back, though, with Young and Sato exchanging assists and buckets to cut the deficit to 1 with a frenetic three minutes off the clock.
When the run came, it came by degrees for 2015. The Stainbrook three made it a 44-40 game, then Dee Davis hit a little bank shot. Romain drove and drew Trevon’s third, but he only split the FTs before Bluiett got a couple of freebies at the other end. Tre hit another FT the next time down. David West answered with a bucket, but 2015 got four straight stops while Stainbrook, Myles Davis, and Remy each hit jumpers to push the lead to 55-43 with 10:36 left in the game.
Try as they might, 2002 couldn’t find a way back in. Lionel cut it to 8 with a scoop and 2002 forced a turnover, but Remy Abell ended the next possession with a block of another Lionel Chalmers attempt and Myles hit a jumper to push it back to 10. Kevin Frey (4/1/5) reeled it back in, but buckets by Stainbrook and Dee ran it right back to a dozen. The final push from 2002 cut the deficit to 7 with just over 4 minutes to play, but 2015’s execution was too clinical. Dee hit a couple of free throws, the Stain Train flicked one in from mid-range, and Myles buried a dagger of a three to make the score 73-61 with 2:05 left. A Stainbrook steal and outlet to Remy for a lay-in was just icing. David Young’s two threes in the final minute were only consequential to people who bet the under; 2015 dribbled out the clock and walked off the court planning for their monster matchup against 2016 in the next round.