No. 8 Xavier, the only unbeaten team in Big East Conference play this season, will put an 11-game winning streak on the line during a Wednesday game against DePaul in Chicago.
Should the Musketeers’ best surge in seven seasons rest on the shoulders of Souley Boum down the stretch, Xavier won’t mind.
Boum produced late heroics Saturday to match Jack Nunge with 16 points as the Musketeers (15-3, 7-0 Big East) edged then-No. 25 Marquette 80-76 in Cincinnati. Boum scored nine points in the final three-plus minutes, including a 4-for-4 effort from the free-throw line.
“That’s how I’ve been my whole life. I like being in those moments,” Boum said. “I practice those free throws all the time, I practice those shots and stuff, so I’m ready for those moments. I practice them. I’m not scared of it. I just want to do my job to the best of my abilities to make sure my team leaves the building with the victory.”
Xavier relied on scoring balance to maintain its best Big East start and extend the program’s longest winning streak since the 2015-16 Musketeers opened the season 12-0.
Nunge did much of the damage from the inside on both ends of the floor, adding 13 rebounds — including eight on the offensive glass — for his fifth double-double this season.
Nunge also blocked three shots and had two steals.
“That’s back-to-back Big East games that he’s had eight offensive rebounds,” Musketeers coach Sean Miller said. “His effort was incredible (Sunday). He was on the floor. He saved one ball in front of our bench. His defense in the second half was a big part of it.”
Xavier limited Marquette to 28 points in the second half after trailing 48-44 at the break. The Musketeers held the Golden Eagles to 6-for-24 shooting from 3-point range overall.
DePaul (8-10, 2-5) is aiming to secure a winning record on its three-game homestand following a 75-65 win against Villanova on Jan. 10 and a 71-67 loss to Seton Hall on Saturday.
The Pirates scored 11 of the game’s final 18 points after the game was tied at 60 with 5:38 to play. Javan Johnson hit a trey with 47 seconds left to bring the Blue Demons within one, but Seton Hall closed the game out from the free-throw line.
Johnson bemoaned his overall shooting struggles after finishing 2-for-13 from the floor, including 2-for-10 from 3-point range.
“Just missed some shots that I usually make,” said Johnson, who wound up with 10 points. “Just gotta get back in the lab.”
Five Blue Demons finished in double figures, led by reserve Da’Sean Nelson’s 15 points in 26 minutes. Still, coach Tony Stubblefield challenged Nelson to contribute a more consistent floor game.
“He can score the ball and he’s skilled,” Stubblefield said. “He can score the ball inside. But when you play 26 minutes, you got to come up with more than three rebounds. I’m more interested in rebounding and defending.”
DePaul edged Xavier 69-65 when the schools met last February in Cincinnati. Xavier has won three of the past five in the series.
The Blue Demons are set to visit the Musketeers on Feb. 18.
–Field Level Media