Musketeers Dismantle Jays in BIG EAST Tournament Semifinals
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier played hands down their best most complete 40 minutes of a very good 25-8 season Friday night in the BIG East Tournament Semi-Finals at MSG-dominating Creighton(#13 NET) 82-60 to advance to BET Championship Game against #1 BET Seed Marquette Saturday(5:30 EST-TV BIG FOX WXIX 19 in Cincinnati. Marquette edged media darling UConn 70-68 in Friday's 1st game. The Muskies let DePaul score 49 opening half points in a tight 89-84 comeback Quarterfinal win Thursday. Muskie defense did a 180 vs a Creighton team that averages over 80 ppg. XU basically never trailed! They led 29-15 with 7:28 left and 40-26 at the half with swarming clawing nasty defense leading the way. XU forced 11 1st half CU turnovers and netted 17 points off those cough ups. 7 Muskie steals helped. Xavier managed 10 more FG attempts and creamed Creighton on the glass 24-14.
In our pre-game scout, we stressed XU had to win the match-up at PG. Souley Boum guarded Ryan Nembhard well-outscored him 13-zip in 1st 20 minutes and 23 to 5 for the game. Souley added 5 rebounds and 6 assists to round out a vintage performance.
I also mentioned that frosh Des Claude needed to chip in on offense plus stay solid on "D". Bingo!! Des scored 11 and led the defense with 4 steals. Label Des the 6th starter now. Sean Miller wove Claude expertly in and out of the line-up . He played starters minutes(24).
Boum, Claude and Colby Jones combined for 30 of Xavier's 40 1st half points. X won most 50-50 balls. CU shot 34% FG-well below their norm.
Sean Miller has been looking for a remedy to Muskie slow starts in 2nd half. His questions were answered vs Creighton. X steadily built the lead in half #2-trading baskets at times but not standing around and continuing to attack the hoop and move the flow offense rapidly.
Jack Nunge shrugged off a bloody lip and poured in 13 2nd half points (17 total). Adam Kunkel drove hard for 4 circus lay-ups plus 4 rebounds. He bumped a leg late and hopefully will be full go for Marquette Saturday in BET Championship Game(5:30-FOX). Jerome Hunter was solid(6 points -8 rebounds).
Miller cleared the bench. Isaiah Tucker knocked down his 1st "3". Bob Nunge played as did Bradley Colbert. Dieonte Miles did not travel to NYC (a family issue).
Coach Miller on the HUGE win:
"Yesterday versus DePaul, it could have gone either way. After that, the pressure just seemed to come off. We played great defense and offense. Couldn't have played any better."
XU has now won 5 in a row and two games in BET for the 1st time since 2015 when they lost to Villanova in the Title game. The numbers are GREAT, 25-8, 17-5 BE, 7-4 Road, 8-5 NET Quad 1, 7-2 vs Top 4 BIG EAST teams(Marquette, UConn, PC and Creighton). 8-3 without Zach Freemantle (the 3 losses by a total of 4 points).
Saturday morning the 25 NET should improve considerably after the blow-out of Quad 1 Creighton. NCAA 4 Seed seems plausible come Selection Sunday. Marquette will probably be favored Saturday in BET Title game. Both teams will be playing on fumes (3 games in 3 days). They split the season series 1-1. We'll post an XU-Marquette Scout Saturday AM.
The focus is on a Muskie BET Title. There will be plenty of good news Sunday when the NCAA Bracket is revealed.
Two Xavier trophies at MSG in 12 months sounds really good (NIT and BET) then we think about NCAA stuff!! 82-60 over Creighton in NYC!! Go figure! Better yet-ENJOY!!