Jones Leads Comeback Charge in Quarterfinals BET Win Against DePaul
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier survived a bumpy start to March Madness in BIG EAST Quarterfinals Thursday night in NYC-trailing DePaul 49-40 at the half and down by 13 (59-46) w/ 15:10 left in regulation, but Muskies gradually climbed the mountain on a Jack Nunge stick back taking an 81-80 lead w/ 2:01 left then closing out DePaul 89-84. XU advances to Friday's BET Semi-final against Creighton( 9PM-FS1). The Bule jays dominated Villanova taking the late Quarterfinal 87-74. So the Top 4 Seeds(all 4 NCAA Tourney locks) Marquette, UConn, Xavier and Creighton match-up in the Semis Friday in front of an MSG sell-out crowd. Marquette plays UConn at 6:30 followed by XU-Creighton.
Muskies were schooled by DU for 25 minutes. Blue Demons were faster, more alert, worked harder and shot the lights out. X gave up 49 1st half points(most in any half all season) thanks to porous olay defense. DU shot 69% FG, 7-10 from "3" and outrebounded XU 11-8. DePaul got anything they wanted-inside-midrange-and outside the arc. Jack Nunge (14 points) and Souley Boum (10) kept X within hailing distance.
The 2nd half began roughly but X played w/ more effort. Shots just were not falling. The long slog to the late lead began slowly. X took the "3" ball away w/ strong close-outs. They held DU to a bunch of one and done trips. XU cut the lead to 8 w/ 7:59 left. They still trailed by 5 w/ 3:55 to go.
Sean Miller addressed the troops at the TV time-out w/ 3:39 to play down 80-77.
"It's anybody's game. The best team will win in the last 4 minutes no matter what's happened up to now."
Miller was prophetic. Over that final war Xavier outscored DePaul 12-4. Colby Jones scored 6 of his 18 2nd half points and added two critical steals(22 points Total for Colby after a 4 point-4 turnover 1st half). Jack Nunge banged in 2 buckets around the rim and shanred 5 rebounds finishing w/ 23 points-10 rebounds and 4 assists).
Souley Boum and Nunge each swished 2 FTs to close out the comeback in the final seconds. X wound up outscoring DU from "3" 9 makes to 8. Muskies had a big edge in FT points(20 to 6).
DePaul's defense broke down and fouls piled up. XU capitalized. X also took decent care of the ball(just 8 turnovers-only one after halftime). Adam Kunkel stepped up w/ 16 points and critical late FTs. The comeback was HUGE and Gritty.
Coach Miller liked it:
"The last 10 minutes we were tough. Our experience just took over. Our veteran guys want to keep playing."
he win may not cinch an NCAA Tourney 4 Seed but a loss would have knocked XU out of the 4 Seed or better discussion. It's XU's 1st BET win since 2019 cracking a nasty 4 game BET losing streak. It's another positive step for the Sean Miller 2.0 Muskies. 24-8, 16-5 BIG EAST, #15 AP look good to me.
reighton in Friday's Semis(9 PM-FS1) present a difficult challenge. Well post a full Creighton Scout Friday AM. A win over CU would be an NET Quad 1 and probably wrap up a 4 NCAA Seed when CBS reveals the bracket Sunday evening.
Thursday afternoon #1 Seed Marquette needed overtime to eliminate St Johns 72-70. MU trailed by 10 at the half. BE Player of the Year Tyler Kolek bailed Marquette out w/ 19 points in 2nd half and OT. Posh Alexander missed a wing "3" to win it in OT for St Johns.
4 Seed UConn almost blew a 26 point lead but held on to beat PC 73-66. UConn is the media darling now w/ 9 wins in its last 10 games. Huskies may even be betting favorites vs 6th rated Marquette in their Semis?
XU will be looking to make their 2nd BET Final(losing to Villanova in 2015).
Quick reminder. Don't forget to Spring Ahead Sunday AM(Daylight Savings Time begins!!). My yearly public service announcement!!!