No. 7 Xavier holds on for 84-81 win over Lehigh in opener
CINCINNATI (AP) — Playing with the highest preseason ranking in its history, Xavier got a win that was too close for comfort.
Trevon Bluiett scored a career-high 25 points and led a second-half surge that carried No. 7 Xavier to an 84-81 victory over Lehigh on Friday night.
Edmond Sumner also set a career high with 24 points as Xavier (1-0) rallied after letting a double-digit lead slip away. Lehigh (0-1) got the ball back with 17.7 seconds left on Sumner’s offensive foul and missed a pair of 3-point shots.
“Really disappointed with our last 3 or 4 minutes of the game,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said . “Some of the mistakes we made were inexcusable down the stretch and we have to correct those very, very quickly.”
Sumner opened the game with a three-point play and had 11 of Xavier’s first 20 points, showing more patience in his second season running the offense. The Musketeers led by as many as 12 points in the half, with Sumner scoring 15.
“We couldn’t guard anybody,” Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. “Edmond Sumner was playing like an All-American. He was living at the rim. Our defense got shredded and that’s what I was most disappointed in.”
Tim Kempton , the Patriot League’s two-time player of the year, scored 25 points and steadied the Mountain Hawks, who took advantage of Xavier’s defensive breakdowns. Kyle Leufroy’s 3 gave them their only lead at 58-57 with 11:39 left.
Bluiett then asserted himself, scoring 10 points during a 16-5 run that put Xavier ahead to stay. Xavier had three turnovers — two by Sumner — in the final 61 seconds, giving Lehigh a chance to close in after trailing by eight.
“Very sloppy,” said Sumner , who had six assists and six turnovers. “We work on that at practice, so no excuse. We were just a little careless.”
Xavier held its ground. The Musketeers were ranked as high as No. 5 last season, a school record.
Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks got started on another challenging November. Last season, they lost their opener at Syracuse 57-47 and dropped their first seven games overall.
“My message was that I’m disappointed and I thought this is one we could have gotten,” Reed said.
Xavier: The Musketeers missed the defense and outside shooting of senior guard Myles Davis, suspended indefinitely while the courts handle a misdemeanor case involving his former girlfriend’s property.
Xavier has won 27 straight season openers, including 17 at the Cintas Center. Lehigh hasn’t won a season opener since 2008.
PLAY ’EM ALL
Mack quickly had to go deep into his bench. With 13 minutes left in the first half, Sumner was the only holdover from last season on the floor. Bluiett picked up his second foul with 14:25 left and took a seat.
TRY IT ALL
Lehigh used a press, a half-court trap and a zone defense in the first half to slow Xavier after its fast start.
Xavier senior guard Malcolm Bernard went down awkwardly and grabbed his right ankle and foot late in the first half. He limped off and went to the locker room but returned for the second half and finished with five points.
Lehigh: Plays at Yale on Thursday.
Xavier: Hosts Buffalo on Monday. The Musketeers improved to 217-31 at the Cintas Center.
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