By Terrance Harris
AP Sports Writer
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — J.P. Macura doesn’t know why but, for some reason, his shot hadn’t been falling quite right during Xavier’s first couple of games.
But that changed — quickly — during the 11-ranked Musketeers’ 83-77 victory over Clemson on Friday in the second round of the Tire Pros Invitational. The junior guard hit his first 3-pointer in the first 58 seconds, then exchanged a little trash talk with Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame. It was on from there.
Macura surpassed his career high with 23 points in the first half and finished with 28 in a battle of two strong-willed teams.
“I started the season off not shooting the ball very well and my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball,” said Macura, whose previous career high was 21 points. “I had all the confidence in the world when I was shooting and we just had a great team victory today.”
The Musketeers jumped out to an early double-digit lead due in large part to their patience and getting the ball to the open man, which was often Macura. He was 5 for 6 from 3-point in the first 20 minutes, and Edmond Sumner (11 points) and Trevon Bluiett (21 points) showed great patience in making the extra pass to find Macura.
Macura scored just five points in the second half, ending the game shooting 10 of 12 from the field and going 6-for-11 from 3-point range. But his contribution was just enough to prevent Clemson from completing its numerous comeback attempts.
“His teammates really wanted to find him. He has that ability,” said Xavier coach Chris Mack, whose team moved to 3-0 as it heads into the championship game on Sunday. “He had a huge game in the first half and he made some big-time plays in the second half as well.”
But the Tigers made it interesting at the end, pulling to 81-77 in the final 7 seconds after several lapses by Xavier on both ends of the floor. The game wasn’t secured until Bluiett hit two free throws with 6 seconds remaining.
It was the second close win for the Musketeers after they escaped Missouri with a one-point win in overtime Thursday.
“It was really fun,” Macura said. “Clemson is a very good basketball team and I think we came together as a team and played great team basketball.
“We played well on the defensive end and we just need to keep doing this.”
Clemson: All five of the Tigers’ starters are double-figure scorers. Their problem on Friday was discipline and not giving enough effort on the defensive end. Macura was allowed to hit too many open 3-pointers.
Xavier: The Tigers are talented but they are soft inside and that is where the difference came. They were outscored 36-28 in the paint.
Xavier: A win over a quality opponent like the ACC’s Clemson should bolster the Musketeers’ standing.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell was proud of his team played, but recognized it was tough to beat a Xavier team that converted 53 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range for the game. The Musketeers seemed to have an answer for every run Clemson made.
“When Xavier shoots the ball like that they’re going to be hard to beat,” Brownell said.
DOMINATING THE PAINT
Other players scored more points for Xavier but no contribution was perhaps bigger than center Sean O’Mara in the paint. He was 4 for 4 from the field and 2 for 2 from the free throw line to finish with 10 points.
Clemson: The Tigers will play the loser of the Northern Iowa-Oklahoma game for third place, Sunday.
Xavier: The Musketeers will play the Northern Iowa-Oklahoma winner in the Sunday night championship game.