CINCINNATI (AP)Jack Nunge scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 19 and 16th-ranked Xavier made a season-high 15 3-pointers in a 96-71 win over St. John’s on Saturday.
Souley Boum added 17 points, Desmond Claude scored 11 and Jerome Hunter 10 for the Musketeers (19-5, 11-2 Big East).
The win was Xavier’s second straight without second-leading scorer Zach Freemantle, who is expected to miss four weeks with a foot injury. The Musketeers were coming off an 85-83 win over No. 17 Providence on Wednesday. They’ve won four of their last five games.
”This week was big” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. ”When you win in different ways, your confidence grows. This can solidify us.”
The slumping Red Storm (14-10, 4-9) have lost two straight, four of five and nine of 12. A.J. Storr led St. John’s with 14 points.
With the win, Xavier remained tied with No. 14 Marquette for first place in the conference. Earlier Saturday, the Golden Eagles knocked off Butler 60-52.
”When you’re in a flow on offense, you can do a lot if different things,” said the 7-foot Nunge, who hit three 3-pointers. ”We’ve got five guys who can score the ball. We were very balanced. Three 3s is amazing. I felt confident.”
The win was Xavier’s second over St. John’s this season. The Musketeers escaped New York with an 84-79 win on December 28.
Nunge and Jones each scored 13 points to lead Xavier to a 49-30 lead at halftime. The Musketeers shot 60.7% (17 of 28) overall and 53.8% (7 of 13) on 3-pointers in the first half. Jones was 3 of 4 from long distance.
”They shot the ball,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said of Xavier. ”They did a lot of things well. Defensively, I thought we were a step slow in our rotation and getting to spots where we needed to be.”
Xavier raced to a quick 7-0 lead and never trailed. The Musketeers connected on nine of their first 12 shots and ended the half on an 8-2 run, paced by Nunge’s six points.
”I just thought we were ready,” Miller said. ”We came out after halftime super-charged. I thought the first eight minutes set the tone. When you get off to a fast start, that can give you so much momentum.”
The Musketeers put the game away by sinking six of their first seven shots after halftime, including all three 3-pointers on the way to 64-35 lead. They led by as many as 30 points, 67-37, with 14:10 left.
”We all know we can score,” Nunge said. ”We wanted to get out there and show that we can play both sides of the ball. All of our 3s were good looks and we were able to knock them down.”
St. John’s also was without its second-leading scorer, junior forward David Jones, who left the team to go home after his father, David Apolinar Jones, died, Anderson said.
St. John’s: The Red Storm were slowed by missing their first four free throws and four of six in the first half. They finished 9 of 16 from the line.
Xavier: The Musketeers went into the game leading the nation with an average of 20.8 assists and finished with 26 on 32 made field goals.
St. John’s: At Butler on Tuesday.
Xavier: At Butler on Friday.
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