NCAA BASKETBALL Wednesday’s games
No. 3 Xavier 84, Providence 74
Trevon Bluiett scored 23 points in his final game at the Cintas Center, and No. 3 Xavier never trailed while beating Providence, clinching at least a share of its first Big East championship. The Musketeers (26-4, 14-3) can win it outright by beating DePaul on Saturday and end Villanova’s run of four straight regular season titles. Bluiett will leave Xavier as its second all-time scorer. Quentin Goodin added 18 points, one shy of his career high. Xavier’s latest win matched the school record for victories in the regular season. Top scorer Rodney Bullock fouled out with 4:42 left after managing only six points. Maliek White led with 15 points.
No. 4 Villanova 69, Seton Hall 68, OT
Mikal Bridges scored 23 points, Jalen Brunson made big plays down the stretch and No. 4 Villanova avoided consecutive losses for the first time since the 2012-13 season with a hard-fought overtime victory over Seton Hall. Brunson, who was 1 of 8 from the field midway through the second half, finished with 14 points, including two free throws in the waning seconds of overtime to give Villanova (26-4, 13-4 Big East) a 69-66 lead. Khadeen Carrington closed out the scoring with two free throws with a second to play to finish off a 23-point night for Seton Hall (20-10, 9-8).
No. 18 Clemson 76, Florida State 63
Marcquise Reed scored 22 points and No. 18 Clemson won a program-record 11th Atlantic Coast Conference game with a victory over Florida State. The Tigers (22-7, 11-6) had won 10 league games six times in 64 years as ACC members, but have never before won this many conference games in a regular season. Clemson trailed 24-16 in the opening half before closing the period on a 21-8 charge. Florida State clawed back to lead 45-42 midway through the second half before the Tigers took over and outscored the Seminoles 34-18 the rest of the way. Gabe DeVoe had 13 points while Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas had 11 points each for the Tigers, who took another step toward earning a top four seed in next week’s ACC Tournament. Clemson came into the game tied for fourth with North Carolina State. The Wolfpack play at Georgia Tech tonight. Cofer led the Seminoles with 21 points.
No. 23 Kentucky 96, Mississippi 78
Kevin Knox had 22 points and Quade Green added 18, including eight during a 15-5 second-half run that helped No. 23 Kentucky pull away from Mississippi for a victory. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 17 points, Wenyen Gabriel 15 and PJ Washington 10 as the Wildcats (21-9, 10-7 Southeastern Conference) won their third consecutive game and home finale, the first without departing seniors under coach John Calipari. Green had two 3-pointers and a layup during the run that provided an 82-69 lead with 6:40 remaining. Terence Davis had 26 points and Breein Tyree and Bruce Stevens 13 each for the Rebels (12-18, 5-12).
No. 25 Houston 69, SMU 56
Rob Gray had 19 points and nine assists and Corey Davis Jr. added 17 points to lead No. 25 Houston to a win over SMU. The Cougars (23-6, 13-4 American) have won seven of eight games and are a half game behind second-place Wichita State, which will visit UCF today. SMU (16-14, 6-11) has lost seven of eight games since leading scorer Shake Milton was sidelined with a hand injury. Jahmal McMurry scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half to lead the Mustangs. He was the only SMU player to score during the first 91/2 minutes. Houston outscored SMU 17-4 in points off turnovers and 28-16 in points in the paint. The Cougars’ largest lead was 18 points late in the second half after leading 36-24 at halftime. The Mustangs missed 11 consecutive field-goal attempts during the first half.