Xavier shows off proficient passing, assist rate vs. Pitt

Xavier guard Colby Jones celebrates after scoring against Pittsburgh during the first half of a second-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Xavier spent the first half of its 84-73 NCAA Tournament win over Pittsburgh on Sunday sharing the ball at an incredible rate.

The Musketeers tallied 17 assists on their 19 first-half baskets, a rate of better than 89% en route to building a 48-34 margin at the break in the second-round matchup. The Musketeers finished the game with 22 assists.

Xavier leads the nation with 19.2 assists per game.

“That is what got us here,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “I think for most of the season we’ve led college basketball in assists. We did it very well through the Big East Conference and really throughout. I would say that might be our greatest strength, just our ability to share the ball and play together. Like I said, when you get to this level, you want to, whether you win or lose, be who you are.”

Colby Jones finished with seven assists, Souley Boum had five, and Adam Kunkel and Jack Nunge each had three. It all helped the Midwest Region's No. 3 seed effectively move the ball either around the perimeter or on kickouts after probing the center of the Panthers' defense.

Xavier shot 52.8% in the first 20 minutes, led by Kunkel scoring 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting from behind the arc.

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