Xavier Perfect 7-0 in BIG EAST After Outlasting Marquette
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier Hoops continued their strong play Sunday at Cintas in front of an standing room onlycrowd holding off #25 Marquette 80-76. Muskies improve to 15-3 overall, 7-0 BIG EAST (finally in solo 1st place-ahead of 6-1 Providence and 6-2 Marquette) and post their 11th consecutive win-longest since starting the 2015-16 season 12-0. XU sits 10-1 at home(lone loss by 2 to Indiana). X grabs 2 NET Quad 1 wins for a productive week w/ "WS" over Creighton Wednesday and Marquette Sunday. Muskies should see their AP Top 25 rank(#12) and NET(#19) climb significantly Monday. MU had won 5 in a row w/ their only BE loss in 2 OTs at PC.
They started quickly-leading XU 10-2 just 3:30 in-making shots and forcing XU turnovers. Xavier adjusted to the hectic pace and cut M lead to 15-12 at the 1st media time-out. Marquette PG Tyler Kolek dominated 1st half (20 points on 9-11 FGs plus 4 assists). XU could not control his lefty drives.
Muskies were lucky to be down just 48-44 at the half struggling to get defensive stops-turning the ball over 7 times and missing from "3"( just 2-9). X trailed by 6 w/ 48 seconds left but Jerome Hunter scored a tough 2 in the lane and X got a late stop surprising MU w/ zone defense.
Xavier regrouped at halftime and cranked up the energy and defensive mojo. PG Souley Boum after a rough 1st half( 2 points on 1-5 FGs) potted 5 points fast! X solved a MU zone when Colby Jones knocked down a corner "3" after multi-passes.
X dominated the glass and amped up the physical defense. Muskies won the 1st 2nd half WAR and surged ahead 56-54 w/ 15 to play. The game stayed tight and tense the rest of the way.
The track meet pace slowed considerably as XU controlled the rebounds( won on glass 45-32 w/ 17 offensive boards) and took great care of the ball vs MU pressure(just 3 turnovers in 2nd half). XU had better looks and chances to extend the lead but MU kept punching. Xavier controlled PG Kolek (just 5 2nd half points) w/ harder play and more switching off ball screens.
Souley Boum finished strong-surviving heavy defensive pressure from Stevie Mitchell and the two Frosh Gs Sean Jones and Chase Ross. The 2nd half PG battle went to Boum over Kolek(13 points to 2) w/ Boum adding several crafty rebounds.
Final minute! Tied at 72-72 after a 4 point Marquette run. XU time-out. Muskies ran a patient play for Souley and caught MU in a switch(Boum guarded b y a BIG in space). Souley surveyed his options-popped up and nailed a 17 footer for 74-72. X then negotiated the final 46 ticks by cracking MU pressure and swishing 6 FTs(4 by Boum and 2 by Adam Kunkel). 80-76 Xavier the Final.
"Jack Nunge's effort was incredible(16 points-13 rebounds-3 blocks-2 steals)-that's 8 offensive boards for him in each of the past 2 games(Creighton and Marquette)-He was on the floor-making plays-diving. Two key stats-rebounding 45-32 our way and just 3 2nd half turnovers vs a team that thrives on turnovers and deflections. We need to package our 2nd half defense(just 29 points allowed)-take it on the planed w/ us to Chicago and unwrap it for DePaul" (Wednesday-8:30 PM EST-FS1).
Marquette coach Shaka Smart:
"Xavier is a phenomenal passing team. Their guys play with terrific grit. We had it tied w/ 45 seconds left on the road vs the league leader. That's pretty good. We didn't want to switch off Boum, but they ran nice action. It wasn't our best 2nd half. Some fatigue maybe. We need to cut more violently. I need to sub better."
Xavier had all 5 starters in double figures and Jerome Hunter potted 11 w/ 4 boards in 22 bench minutes. Can you say "BEST 6th Man in BIG EAST"!
One other Sunday BE Game-St Johns upset slumping UConn(#6 AP-but losers of 4 of last 5) 85-74 Johnnies in Hartford. UConn now 4-4 BE. One MLK Day BE Game Monday-Georgetown at Villanova(Noon-BIG FOX). BIG EAST Standings-XU(6-0), PC(6-1), Marquette(6-2), Creighton(4-3), UConn and Seton Hall(4-4), St Johns and Butler (3-5), Villanova and DePaul(2-5), Georgetown (0-7).