No. 13 Xavier looks to remain atop the Big East standings and complete a season sweep of Creighton when it visits the Bluejays on Saturday in Omaha, Neb.
The Musketeers (17-4, 9-1) are coming off an 82-79 win at No. 19 UConn on Wednesday, while Creighton (12-8, 6-3) cruised to a 104-76 win over visiting St. John’s that day.
Xavier nearly squandered a 17-point lead in the second half against the Huskies, who pulled to within 78-77 with 2:40 left. Souley Boum hit two late free throws to secure the Musketeers’ 13th win in their past 14 games.
Boum scored a team-high 21 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists, while Colby Jones added 20 points and four assists. Jack Nunge chipped in 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Jerome Hunter finished with 11 points.
“There is no telling what would have happened if they had taken the lead,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “The roof may have blown off. So, I think that when they were really close and we answered with a basket or a free throw, I think that continued to help us just keep fighting.”
Boum averages a team-high 16.8 points and 1.3 steals per game, while Zach Freemantle averages 15.1 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game.
Jones averages 14.6 points and a team-high 5.1 assists per game, while Nunge chips in 14.3 points and a team-high 1.3 blocks per game. Adam Kunkel averages 10.2 points per game to round out the Musketeers’ balanced attack.
Creighton has won three straight games since a 90-87 loss at Xavier on Jan. 11.
The Bluejays had their highest-scoring output of the season against the Red Storm. Creighton led by 13 at halftime and by as many as 30 in the second half.
Baylor Scheierman had a double-double with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists to lead five Bluejays in double figures. Ryan Nembhard had 16 points and six assists, while Ryan Kalkbrenner added 16 points and five rebounds.
Arthur Kaluma chipped in 14 points and five rebounds, with Trey Alexander finishing with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists.
In Xavier and Creighton’s last meeting, the Bluejays pulled to within 86-84 following Nembhard’s jumper with 23 seconds left before Boum’s two free throws extended the Musketeers’ advantage to 88-84.
Alexander’s 3-pointer with two seconds left made it a one-point game, but Boum secured the win with two free throws.
“We didn’t come out with the defensive intensity we needed to and I don’t think we showed what we can do on defense,” Kalkbrenner said on Wednesday. “Hopefully, we can show a lot better this time.”
Kalkbrenner averages a team-high 15.0 points and 2.2 blocks per game to go along with 6.9 rebounds, while Scheierman averages 13.5 points per game and a team-high 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.
Alexander averages 13.0 points and 4.2 rebounds, while Kaluma chips in 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Nembhard averages 11.5 points and a team-high 5.3 assists per game.
–Field Level Media