No. 22 Xavier (9-1) will wrap up nonconference play at home against Morehead State on Wednesday following an 83-63 win over Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout.
Xavier’s fifth consecutive win was a team effort with eight of nine players in the scoring column; three players scored in double figures in Saturday’s win.
Jack Nunge, the 7-foot Iowa transfer, dropped 31 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, both career highs. Paul Scruggs added 14 points, and Adam Kunkel poured in 12 points.
Head coach Travis Steele said Scruggs set the tone for the game with his leadership, desire and “winner mentality.”
Scruggs, who became the first Xavier player to beat Cincinnati four times, relished the opportunity to play in the game.
“I came back for my teammates and the fans,” Scruggs said. “I wanted to go out with a bang.”
Xavier used its size and length to outscore the Bearcats 34-22 in the paint and outmuscle them on the boards 41-28.
Xavier’s depth was also a factor, with bench scoring favoring the Musketeers 56-20.
Despite maintaining a two-point halftime lead, Morehead State (6-4) had its four-game win streak halted in an 82-75 loss at East Tennessee State on Saturday.
The Eagles were paced by 6-foot-10 Johni Broome and Jake Wolfe.
Broome, one of the nation’s leading defenders who is averaging 10 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game, had 24 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Wolfe added a season-best 13 points in the losing effort.
Following a highly emotional week and the anticipation of Big East play looming this weekend, Xavier hopes to maintain its focus on this contest.
“Enjoy this one, we’ve got a lot more of the season left — starting with Morehead State,” Steele said. He stressed that his team must continue to “embrace the process” and play to their defensive strengths.
Xavier and Morehead State have met 10 times, with the Musketeers holding a 7-3 edge in the series. The last meeting came in November 2017, a 101-49 Xavier win.
Both teams hang their hat on defense. The Eagles rank first in the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring defense, allowing 65.6 points per game. Xavier ranks 12th in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 37.2 percent.
Broome will rely on sophomore point guard Ta’Lon Cooper to feed him the ball in the post. Cooper is tied for fifth in the nation with 6.9 assists per game.
Morehead State head coach Preston Spradlin is focused on his team’s growth and improvement.
“I’m looking forward to the matchup and seeing where we measure up after we’ve gone through a stretch of playing mid-major opponents and getting a chance to play a really good Xavier team on the road,” Spradlin said.
–Field Level Media