CINCINNATI (AP) — Myles Powell rallied Seton Hall from another double-digit deficit to a win that stamps the Pirates as a Big East contender.
Powell scored seven of his 25 points during Seton Hall’s closing run Wednesday night, hitting one clutch shot after another, as the Pirates rallied for their seventh straight win, 80-70 over Xavier.
“I know I’m the leader of this team,” said Powell, who was 9 of 15 from the field and added eight assists. “My guys are looking for me to lead them. We’ve been here. We’re battle tested.”
Powell’s 3-pointer started a 15-5 spurt that helped the Pirates (11-3, 2-0 Big East) overcome a 10-point deficit in the second half. The Pirates were coming off a 76-74 victory over previously unbeaten St. John’s on Saturday, when they overcame a 14-point deficit and won it with Shavar Reynolds’ 3-pointer in the final second.
“Myles is as good as any player in the country,” coach Kevin Willard said. “I loved the way he passed the basketball today. He is really starting to understand with all the attention he’s getting, there’s guys open and they’re going to make plays for him.”
Xavier (9-6, 1-1) led for most of the game but couldn’t hold on. Paul Scruggs had 22 points, and Zach Hankins added a season-high 20.
“We tend to beat ourselves a lot,” Hankins said. “Myles Powell is a great player in this league, but if we take care of the ball better, we make some better plays, I feel we come out with the W.”
Last season, the Musketeers prevailed in a high-scoring game at the Cintas Center, overcoming Powell’s 30 points for a 102-90 win .
Hankins had 18 points in the opening half , making his first eight shots and nine of 11 as the Pirates lost track of him near the basket. Hankins’ dunk on an alley-oop pass from Quentin Goodin highlighted a 10-point Xavier run late in the half that pushed the lead to 40-31.
The Pirates kept closer watch on Hankins in the second half, allowing Xavier some open shots beyond the arc. Back-to-back 3s by Ryan Welage and Scruggs pushed it to 56-46 with 12 minutes left.
The Musketeers then had five turnovers in less than 4 minutes that helped the Pirates rally. Romaro Gill’s dunk gave Seton Hall its first lead of the half, 65-63, with 4:57 left.
“We had five turnovers in nine possessions in the second half when they went on their run,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “Seton Hall did a great job creating havoc, but we have to be more solid with our decisions.”
Seton Hall: The Pirates took another step toward the Top 25 — they got votes this week — by beating the defending Big East champions on their home court. Xavier is 252-38 all-time at the Cintas Center and had won its five previous Big East home openers.
“It’s a real good start to the season,” Willard said. “I think St. John’s is one of the best teams in the league and to come on the road to one of the toughest places to play, that’s two good wins in a row.”
Xavier: The Musketeers found an inside game behind Hankins, who is developing during his first season as a graduate transfer. They’ve been limited to perimeter shots in some games with no reliable scorer inside.
Powell was 3 of 4 from the field in the last 5 minutes, made two free throws, and had a pair of assists. The Pirates made six of their last eight shots while pulling away.
Seton Hall leads the series 11-8. The Pirates were swept last season by the Musketeers.
Seton Hall plays at DePaul on Sunday.
Xavier plays at No. 16 Marquette on Sunday.
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