CINCINNATI — Adam Kunkel scored 14 points to lead five Xavier players in double figures as the Musketeers narrowly defeated Cleveland State 72-68 in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.
Zach Freemantle had 13 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for the Musketeers (19-13). Paul Scruggs and Jack Nunge each scored 12, and Colby Jones had 11 points.
D'Moi Hodge had 16 points for the Vikings (20-11). Tre Gomillion added 14 points and seven rebounds. Torrey Patton had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
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CSU had a chance to tie or win it down 70-68 in the final seconds, but Gomillion fell down while attempting to drive inside and turned the ball over, with Deante Johnson unable to hold onto it or call a timeout. Despite the protests of coach Dennis Gates, Scruggs went to the free throw line with 0.3 seconds left and made both attempts to ice it.
Cleveland State still has not won a postseason tournament game since 2015, when it advanced to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com tourney. Despite the loss, the Vikings still achieved their first 20-win season in eight years and their first back-to-back conference regular-season titles since 1986.
Xavier will face either Florida or Iona in the second round this weekend.