CINCINNATI — Trevon Bluiett followed his worst shooting performance of the season with a can’t-miss showing, keeping Xavier atop the Big East with a huge game ahead.
Bluiett scored 37 points — three shy of his career high — and the Musketeers let most of a 25-point lead slip away before holding on for a 102-90 win over Seton Hall on Wednesday night, tightening their hold on first place in the league.
Xavier (24-3, 12-2) has won nine in a row heading into its showdown with No. 3 Villanova on Saturday at the Cintas Center. Xavier leads the league by a game and a half after the Wildcats’ 76-71 loss at Providence earlier Wednesday.
“Very fortunate,” coach Chris Mack said. “We’ve got a big one on Saturday.”
Bluiett missed all of his four shots from beyond the arc and finished with a season-low six points during a win at Creighton on Saturday. He found his touch from the first shot on Wednesday — a nothing-but-net 3 — and finished 8 of 11 beyond the arc, one shy of the school record for 3-pointers made in a game.
“I just wanted to be aggressive from the beginning,” Bluiett said. “I don’t think it was anything different, just our regular game plan and me staying aggressive.”
Naji Marshall added a career-high 20 points. Xavier went 14 of 29 from beyond the arc while topping 100 points in a Big East game for the first time.
Seton Hall (17-9, 6-7) has dropped a season-high four in a row. Myles Powell scored a career-high 30 points, including 24 in the second half as the Pirates cut Xavier’s 25-point lead to 87-81 with 3:39 left before Xavier finished it out at the free throw line.
It was familiar for the Pirates, who overcame a 17-point deficit on Saturday before losing to Georgetown 83-80 , with Powell scoring 25 points.
“We’re just getting ourselves in big holes early in the game,” coach Kevin Willard said. “It’s tough in this league to spot teams 17 or 25 points.”
Bluiett came out determined to set the tone early, hitting four 3s during a 25-11 opening run as he personally outscoring the Pirates 12-11. The Musketeers led by as many as 22 in the half.
Bluiett finished with 37 points despite taking only 12 shots from the field, making eight of them. He was 13 of 13 on free throws.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a better performance as a head coach than Trevon’s 37 points,” Mack said. “A lot of guys get over 30 in a game, but they’re taking 25 shots to get it. It’s pretty amazing to take 12 shots and get that many points.”
Seton Hall: The Pirates are 3-3 against ranked teams, with wins over Texas Tech, Louisville and Creighton and losses to Villanova and Xavier twice.
Xavier: The win kept Xavier’s week of momentum going into the showdown with Villanova. The Musketeers got a No. 1 seed in the preliminary NCAA Tournament rankings on Sunday, then received five first-place votes while moving up to No. 4 in the AP poll for the first time in school history a day later.
BLUIETT CLOSES IN
Bluiett now has 2,114 career points, 18 shy of David West for second on Xavier’s all-time scoring list. He also has 300 career 3-pointers, seven shy of Romain Sato’s school record.
Xavier forward Tyrique Jones missed the last two games with an injured left shoulder. He played 11 minutes, scored nine points and had a pair of rebounds.
PERFECT AT HOME
Xavier is 16-0 at the Cintas Center this season and 244-35 overall.
The officials called technical fouls on Willard and Seton Hall’s Ismael Sanogo, and also Xavier’s Sean O’Mara for questioning a call from the bench.
Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado played 22 minutes and had 10 points and six rebounds. He was playing with a sore left knee. Willard took him out when the Pirates got behind by 25 points.
Seton Hall: Hosts DePaul on Sunday. The Pirates won at DePaul 86-70 on Jan. 28, one of their two road wins in Big East play along with a victory at Butler.
Xavier: Villanova has won the last three in the series by lopsided margins, including an 89-65 victory on Jan. 10 — Xavier’s last loss.