Xavier, Florida win on 1st day of Charleston Classic

Xavier, Florida win on 1st day of Charleston Classic
Xavier, UConn, Florida and Miami all advanced to the semifinals with wins on the opening day of the Charleston Classic (Source: Xavier Athletics)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -

Miami 74, Missouri State 70

Dejan Vasiljevic had a career-high 25 points as Miami continued a perfect run at the Charleston Classic with a 74-70 victory over Missouri State on Thursday.

The Hurricanes (4-1) built an 18-point lead midway through the second half, but had to hold on after the Bears cut things to 72-70 on Tyrik Dixon’s driving basket with 1.8 seconds left. Vasiljevic was fouled and calmly hit both free throws to lock up the win.

Miami is the lone two-time tournament champion and improved to 8-0 all-time at the eight-team event. They will face either Florida or St. Joseph’s on Friday for a spot in Sunday’s finals.

Missouri State (2-3) will face the Florida-St. Joseph’s loser Friday.

Vasiljevic helped Miami open its big lead in the second half before Missouri State went on a 12-0 run to cut it to 64-56 with 7:31 to play.

But Kameron McGusty made a field goal and Vasiljevic finished a three-point play to extend Miami’s lead and the Bears could not recover.

Vasiljevic surpassed his previous high of 22 points set last February in a win over Clemson.

McGusty added 19 points and Chris Lykes 11 for the Hurricanes.

Gaige Prim led Missouri State with 18 points, 14 in the second half. Tulio Da Silva had 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds.

Vasiljevic had two of his four 3-pointers to start Miami’s 22-13 run that closed the opening half. His first one put the Hurricanes ahead for good, 19-17, with 8:03 remaining and he followed with another long-range basket. McGusty had five points and Harlond Beverly four points in the stretch to send Miami into the break ahead 38-30.

BIG PICTURE Missouri State: The Bears are in a difficult stretch they hope will lead to good things down the road. They fell to Xavier last Friday and after three games in Charleston will head to LSU. Miami: The Hurricanes sure didn’t have the killer instinct in this one with Missouri State going on a 24-10 spurt in the last 10 minutes to nearly steal the game. That won’t fly once ACC play hits.

Florida 70, St. Joseph’s 62

Keyontae Johnson had a career-high 22 points and Florida held off Saint Joseph’s 70-62 on Thursday at the Charleston Classic playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr.

Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds for Florida (3-2), was kicked out after getting a flagrant two foul for what looked like an elbow to St. Joseph’s Taylor Funk. Blackshear played only three minutes in the opening half with two early fouls.

Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.

But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.

St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. But the Gators made four foul shots down the stretch.

Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.

The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.

Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.

Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.

St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.

Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators were No. 6 in the preseason rankings, but have since fallen out with losses to Florida State and UConn. They’re hoping a strong showing in Charleston will move them back in the right direction.

UP NEXT

Florida plays Miami in the Charleston Classic semifinals on Friday.

St. Joseph’s faces Missouri State Friday.

Xavier 73, Towson 51

Tyrique Jones had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead No. 18 Xavier to a 73-51 victory over Towson on Thursday night in the Charleston Classic.

The Musketeers are 5-0 for the second time in three seasons and first time since 2018 when they won the Big East Conference regular-season title and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This Xavier group just might have the pieces for another special season as long as Jones keeps playing like this. The dynamic 6-foot-9 senior had a rim-rattling jam early in the second half and finished with the second double-double of the season and 12th of his college career.

The Musketeers will face either Buffalo or UConn in the eight-team tournament Friday night for a spot in the championship game.

Xavier opened a double-digit lead with a 15-6 run midway through the opening half. Scruggs had a pair of baskets to start things, Dahmir Bishop hit a three, Scruggs added another bucket and Carter finished things with two fouls and an inside basket to put the Musketeers up 15-6.

The Tigers (2-3) struggled against Xavier’s relentless pressure, turning the ball over on three straight positions. They weren’t much more successful when they held onto the ball, going 1 of 14 from the field during one brutal stretch of the period.

Towson got a bit of a lift heading to the locker room as Jakigh Dottin made about a 35-footer as time ran out to draw his team to 31-20 at the break. Still, the Tigers could not get their shots to fall, finishing just 18-of-59 shooting (30.5 percent).

Jason Carter finished with 13 points and Bryce Moore added 12 points for Xavier, including a four-point play with 9:50 to go.

BIG PICTURE

Towson: The Tigers won’t be back home for a game until Dec. 10. They’ll be very used to each other after this seven-game stretch that started at with a loss at Florida a week ago and ends at Vermont on Dec. 7.

Xavier: The Musketeers first four wins all came at home and, while they were not all easy, there was a comfort to not leaving the gym. This week in Charleston is a big test for Xavier, which could wind up playing Florida or Miami in its tournament game Sunday night - either for third place or for its third in-season title in the past five seasons.

Connecticut 79, Buffalo 68

Brendan Adams had a career-high 20 points and Christian Vital added 16 points and 10 rebounds as UConn held off Buffalo 79-68 at the Charleston Classic on Thursday night.

The win by the Huskies (3-1) sets up a Big East past, present and future matchup with No. 18 Xavier on Friday night as former league heavyweight UConn faces current Big East beast in the Musketeers with the winner advancing the tournament finals.

The schools will soon be league rivals as UConn has announced a return to the Big East.

The Huskies rallied back from seven points down in the opening half and gained control midway through the second with a 15-9 run helped by the debut of Huskies freshman guard James Bouknight.

Bouknight, who missed UConn’s first three games as he dealt with ramifications and charges from a September traffic accident, played some impactful minutes during the Huskies charge. He took a perfect pass from Adams as he skied for a layup, then fought off two defenders to put back a miss and put UConn ahead 58-49

The Bulls (2-2) closed to 65-62 on Davonta Jordan’s foul shot with 4:07 left. But Adams followed with his second 3-pointer of the game and Buffalo could not get closer than four points the rest of the way.

Adams, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, surpassed his previous high of 15 points set in a win over Sacred Heart earlier this month.

Josh Carlton also had a double-double for the Huskies with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Buffalo led by as many as seven points in the opening half. The Bulls were still up 32-27 with three minutes to go when the Huskies rallied to finish the half on a 7-2 surge. Vital closed things with a close-in bucket to tie the game 34-all at the half.

Antwain Johnson and Josh Mballa each had 15 points to lead Buffalo.

BIG PICTURE

Buffalo: The Bulls will have to wait a little longer for their next win over UConn. It’s been 68 years and counting since Buffalo’s only win over the Huskies. And while that didn’t happen at TD Arena, the Bulls certainly played like a team that will once again contend for the Mid-American Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

UConn: The Huskies showed grit and skill in rallying past Buffalo. Adams and Bouknight are young players that should continue to develop and give UConn coach Danny Hurley plenty to build with going forward.

UP NEXT

Buffalo will take on Towson here Friday night.

UConn will face No. 18 Xavier in a winner’s bracket game Friday night

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