Xavier has stormed into the finals of the AdvoCare Invitational while Dayton has scrapped its way there. The intrastate foes and one-time conference rivals now try to return to Ohio with a trophy as they meet in the title game Sunday near Orlando, Florida.
The 24th-ranked Musketeers easily dispatched Alabama 64-45 in the first round and cruised by Southern California 87-77 in a semifinal win Friday that wasn't as close as the final score. Trevon Bluiett scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in a 17-0 run, as Xavier shot 57.6 percent en route to a 54-27 halftime lead.
''Had our best half of the year,'' coach Chris Mack said. ''Our guys were ready to play. We're just excited to play in the championship game.''
The first 20 minutes were offset slightly by a lackluster second 20 in which the Musketeers (6-0) were outscored 50-33. Myles Davis, who had 12 points, noted the difference but also thinks there won't be a repeat performance.
''It was a learning experience for the guys,'' said Davis, who is averaging 9.8 points despite shooting 34.0 percent. ''I'm not saying we let our foot off the gas. I just think we're in a different circumstance that we haven't been in yet.''
Xavier has outrebounded all six of its opponents, and its plus-14.5 margin ranks in the top 10 in Division I.
While Dayton is 5-0 for the second time in three seasons, the Flyers' early success is a little surprising given they are without last season's leading scorer, Dyshawn Pierre (12.7 ppg), who was suspended for the first semester by the school following a sexual assault accusation.
Coach Archie Miller's team has won its two games in Florida by a combined nine points after holding off a feisty Monmouth squad 73-70 on Friday. Scoochie Smith scored 19 points and hit a crucial 3-pointer late with his team up one as the Flyers nearly squandered all of a 16-point, second-half lead.
"Any time you're in these events with this type of field, and this environment you're in, you can get overwhelmed before it ever gets started," Miller said. "To find a way to win and be in the final, I'm really happy about that for our guys."
Charles Cookie added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Flyers, whose issues on the perimeter defensively might not be fully exploited by a Musketeers team shooting 33.6 percent from beyond the arc. Though Dayton is holding opponents to 36.5 percent shooting overall, it has allowed teams to make 31 of 65 from 3-point range (47.7 percent) over the last three games.
"We obviously have a lot of mistakes right now in terms of our defensive identity," Miller said.
The Flyers have been strong on the boards, winning the rebounding battle in all five games - by an average of 9.4 - while pulling down 43.8 per contest.
Dayton leads the all-time series 85-75, but Xavier has won 22 of the last 30 games between the teams. The former Atlantic 10 foes split their two games in 2012-13 in the most recent meetings before the Musketeers left to join the Big East.