CINCINNATI (AP)Souley Boum scored 26 points and Colby Jones scored 20 as No. 12 Xavier won its 10th straight game, 90-87 over Creighton on Wednesday night.
Jack Nunge had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Xavier (14-3, 6-0 Big East), which is off to its best start ever in Big East play. Jerome Hunter scored 12 points off the bench.
”In many ways, tonight’s victory was our best of the season,” Musketeers coach Sean Miller said. ”I believe Creighton is an excellent team. I can’t imagine an arena that had a better atmosphere than the one we just finished playing in.”
Baylor Scheierman led Creighton (9-8, 3-3) with 25 points. Ryan Nembhard scored 17 and Trey Alexander had 16 for the Bluejays.
Xavier led by seven points with 1:31 left but Nembhard scored the next five and Creighton had a chance to tie or take the lead in the closing seconds. A steal with 13 seconds left denied that opportunity, and then Boum made four free throws in the last five seconds.
”He’s as solid as they come,” Jones said. ”I was like, `Ballgame.’ I felt very confident with Souley at the free throw line at the end of the game.”
The Bluejays were the preseason pick to win the league for the first time since joining the Big East in 2013 but dropped to fifth in the conference standings. Creighton had a six-game losing streak earlier this season.
”High-level basketball game,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. ”We did a lot of the things that I thought we had to do to have a chance to win. Xavier’s hard to guard.”
Since Xavier and Creighton joined the Big East in 2013, 16 of their 22 meetings have been decided by eight points or fewer, including two overtime games.
Wednesday’s game featured 13 lead changes and five ties.
The Musketeers hit six straight shots including a 3-pointer by Nunge to go ahead 80-73, their largest lead of the game with 5:17 remaining.
Nembhard’s jumper cut the Musketeers’ lead to 86-84 with 23.9 seconds remaining.
The Bluejays and Musketeers were a combined 11 of 17 shooting to start the game and neither team cooled off much.
Creighton led by as many as seven points in the first half, but the Musketeers closed the half on a 6-0 run to trim the deficit to 46-45.
Creighton began the second half by making 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
”We’ve had opportunities in the last five or six minutes to win games and we just haven’t been able to finish,” McDermott said. ”Fatigue was a factor for both teams because it was a really high paced game. We lost to a really good team.”
Miller called Boum’s performance his best of the season. He finished two short of his season high in points and added five rebounds, eight assists and three blocks.
”To play in a game that fast and have zero turnovers, is really hard to do,” Miller said. ”He’s playing like an All-American.”
Boum transferred from UTEP and has one year of eligibility left.
”I can’t imagine a better fit for the guys they had returning,” McDermott said.
Creighton: The Bluejays were ranked ninth in the AP preseason poll, the highest preseason ranking in school history. Xavier was the Bluejays’ sixth ranked opponent this season, all on the road. They were coming off an 69-60 loss at No. 6 UConn.
”We’ve played a killer schedule,” McDermott said. ”Not many teams are going to win in Storrs and not many are going to win in Cincinnati. But we were close.”
Xavier: Defensive issues continue to plague the Musketeers, who have allowed 80 or more points five times this season. But they held Creighton without a field goal for nearly four minutes to get back in the game late in the second half.
”The way we play getting out on offense and got to guard our man on defense, it’s not as easy as everyone thinks,” Boum said. ”But that’s what it takes to be a really good team so we just have to keep growing in that area.”
Creighton: Hosts No. 19 Providence on Saturday.
Xavier: Hosts No. 25 Marquette on Sunday.
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