CINCINNATI (AP) — Souley Boum and Jack Nunge each scored 16 points and No. 12 Xavier won its 11th straight game with a 80-76 victory over No. 25 Marquette on Sunday.
The final few seconds were close, with Olivier-Maxence Prosper making a jumper to cut Xavier’s lead to 78-76 with 8 seconds left. Boum then hit two free throws to seal the victory as the Musketeers went 6-for-6 from the line in the final 28 seconds.
“That's how I've been my whole life, I like being in those moments," said Boum, who scored nine points in the final three minutes, including going 4-for-4 from the line. “I practice those free throws all the time, so I'm not scared of it. I just have to do my job to make sure my team leaves the building with a victory.”
“He's so accurate as a shooter,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “He's got a repertoire that so few guards have. He's so confident from the line. It's not like he's at the line early in the game. We're talking about, make the free throws to win it.”
Six players scored in double figures for Xavier (15-3, 7-0 Big East), which is off to its best start ever in Big East play. The Musketeers' winning streak is their longest since starting the 2015-16 season 12-0. Nunge had 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double this season and second straight.
Tyler Kolek scored 25 points and Oso Ighodaro had 14 for Marquette (14-5, 6-2 Big East), which snapped a five-game winning streak. Kolek who averages eight assists per game, dished out seven.
After a wild first half that saw a 92 combined points scored, the second half was a grind.
The Musketeers had no answer in the first half for Kolek, who had 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting and four assists. Marquette led 48-44 at halftime.
The defenses — and perhaps some fatigue — showed up late in the second half with both teams going scoreless for more than six minutes. A steal and dunk by Marquette guard Chase Ross tied the score 68-68 with 3:31 remaining. But Boum answered with a 3-pointer to put the Musketeers ahead to set up a frantic finish.
“It's always tough coming in here,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “With 45 seconds left, it's a tie game. Xavier had the ball in their leading scorer's hands. He made tough shots. Lot of things that we'll look at on the tape that we need to improve on.”
After Kolek's 20-point outburst in the first half for Marquette, the Musketeers adjusted their defense. After halftime, Kolek scored only five points and was 2 of 7 from the field and the Golden Eagles scored only 28 points.
“We kind of let him get to his left hand too much (in the first half) and getting downhill,” Nunge said. “We just locked in, switched more. We did a good job in the second half."
Marquette: The Golden Eagles have been outrebounded 11 times this season and struggled to handle the 7-foot Nunge, ending up getting beat on the boards 45-32 on Sunday and giving up 17 second-chance points to Xavier.
“We knew going into the game they had just two bigs,” said Nunge, who had 13 rebounds, eight of them offensive. “We really thought that was an area where we could exploit them. We wanted to make sure we sent three to the glass.”
Xavier: The Musketeers struggled on defense in the first half, allowing 48 points on Sunday — the 16th time it has allowed 40 or more in a half this season. But in the second half, Xavier shut down the Golden Eagles, allowing only 28 points.
“We've been inching toward getting better,” Miller said. “Have we gotten better by leaps and bounds? No. We are, in kind of a quiet way behind our offense, getting better here and there.”
Marquette: Hosts No. 19 Providence on Wednesday.
Xavier: At DePaul on Wednesday.
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