LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Xavier looks ready to climb higher in the rankings.
Trevon Bluiett scored 16 points and No. 23 Xavier beat Southern California 87-77 on Friday to reach the AdvoCare Invitational title game.
Bluiett had 11 points as Xavier (6-0) took control early on en route to a 54-27 halftime lead.
“Had our best half of the year,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “Our guys were ready to play. We’re just excited to play in the championship game.”
Xavier also got 13 points from Edmond Sumner.
Nikola Jovanovic and Julian Jacobs had 15 points each for USC (5-1). The season-opening five-game run was the Trojans’ best since starting 2000-01 with an 8-0 record.
“Xavier played outstanding basketball in the first half,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We got on our heels a little bit on offense. It kind of snowballed on us.”
The Musketeers were 6 of 13 from 3-point range, including Bluiett converting 3 of 4 during the opening half.
Bluiett had a pair of 3s and Jalen Reynolds added two slams during a 17-0 run that put Xavier ahead 19-3 5 minutes into the game.
USC shot 9 for 26 and was outrebounded 25-10 in the opening half.
Jovanovic’s 3-point play and a slam by Jacobs got USC to 70-55 with 6 1/2 minutes to play. The deficit was trimmed to 72-59 on Malik Marquetti’s rebound basket.
The Trojans outscored Xavier 50-33 in the second half.
“It was a learning experience for the guys,” said Xavier guard Myles Davis, who had 12 points. “I’m not saying we let our foot off the gas. I just think we’re in a different circumstance that we haven’t been in yet.”
USC guard Jordan McLaughlin had six points over 17 minutes during the first half, but didn’t play in the second due to a broken nose.
“He’s a tough young man,” Enfield said. “We’ll see how it plays out and whether he can play on Sunday.”
Xavier: Mack has 140 victories at the school. He’s eight away from tying Skip Prosser (1994-2001) for second place. … The Musketeers opened the tournament Thursday by beating Alabama 64-45.
USC: The Trojans were looking to win two games in the same season against Top 25 teams for the first time since 2010-11. … USC, behind 22 points from Boatwright, beat No. 20 Wichita State 72-69 on Thursday.
Xavier made 22 of 29 free throws, while USC converted 10 of 13. … The Musketeers also won the rebound battle 43-30. … Both teams had 12 turnovers.
Xavier: Plays the Monmouth-Dayton winner Sunday.
USC: Plays the Monmouth-Dayton loser for third place Sunday.