No. 16 Xavier beats No. 17 Providence 85-83 in OT thriller

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CINCINNATI — Jack Nunge had 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 16 Xavier held off No. 17 Providence 85-83 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.

Colby Jones and Souley Boum each scored 20 for the Musketeers, who won a first-place showdown in the Big East without injured forward Zach Freemantle.

Noah Locke had 22 points and Ed Croswell added 21 for Providence (17-6, 9-3), which had beaten Xavier three straight times.

A layup by Boum put the Musketeers (18-5, 10-2) ahead 82-79 with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. A turnover by the Musketeers led to a layup by Devin Carter that cut Xavier’s lead to one with 24 seconds left.

Boum hit one of two free throws, and Jared Bynum’s 3-point attempt from the left corner rimmed out at the buzzer as the Musketeers held on.

Xavier played its first game without Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. He is expected to miss four weeks with a left foot injury, the same foot that required surgery in 2021.

Jerome Hunter, who has excelled off the bench for the Musketeers, made his first start of the season and scored nine points with eight rebounds. Xavier had used the same starting lineup in each of its previous 11 Big East games.

Things started well for the Musketeers. who went on a 12-1 run to build a 25-11 lead.

With Boum on the bench with two fouls, the Musketeers didn’t have a field goal in the final 4:18 of the first half and the Friars pulled to 39-35 at halftime.

Providence outscored Xavier 8-2 to start the second half and took its first lead, 43-41, with 17:41 left.

There was a frantic finish to the second half, with Adam Kunkel’s 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead 76-73 with 55 seconds left. But then Bynum banked in a tying 3 and Boum missed two long shots to send the game to overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars, who won their first Big East regular-season title last year, entered the night tied atop the conference standings with Xavier and No. 14 Marquette, which hosted Villanova later. Providence was picked fifth in the preseason.

Xavier: Hunter, who averages 14 minutes, left with three minutes remaining in OT with an apparent cramp in his right leg. With Freemantle out, Hunter played 36 minutes.

UP NEXT

Providence: Hosts last-place Georgetown on Wednesday.

Xavier: Will host St. John’s on Saturday.

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

Gibson scores 22 as DePaul surprises No. 8 Xavier 73-72

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CHICAGO – Wins like this are just what DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield envisioned when he was hired two years ago to restore a once-proud program. He promised more are coming.

Umoja Gibson scored 22 points, Javan Johnson added 16 and DePaul surprised No. 8 Xavier 73-72 on Wednesday night.

The Musketeers (15-4, 7-1 Big East) came in rolling with 11 straight wins – their best run since the 2015-16 team got off to a 12-0 start. But they came up short against the Blue Demons (9-10, 3-5).

DePaul led by seven with about eight minutes remaining and made just enough plays to come away with its first win over a top-10 team since beating No. 5 Butler exactly three years earlier at Wintrust Arena.

“We’re gonna get some more,” said Stubblefield, a longtime assistant at Oregon before DePaul hired him in April 2021. “This is what we’re supposed to do. This is the reason I came here. This should be the norm.”

Xavier led 70-68 after a twisting layup by Adam Kunkel with 1:43 remaining. DePaul’s Eral Penn answered with a three-point play, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with a minute to play.

Zach Freemantle put Xavier back on top, 72-71, when he made two free throws with 46 seconds remaining. But Da’Sean Nelson answered with a layup to put DePaul ahead 73-72 with 28 seconds left.

Souley Boum then missed a layup, leading to a scramble and jump ball, giving DePaul possession with 2.4 seconds remaining. That helped seal the Blue Demons’ first win over a ranked opponent since beating No. 21 Xavier on Feb. 5, 2022.

“I feel like we knew we could get the job done,” Johnson said. “It’s just a matter of sticking together and playing our game and getting stops defensively.”

Gibson, who transferred from Oklahoma last spring, made five 3-pointers. Johnson hit three from beyond the arc. Nelson scored 10, and the Blue Demons won for the second time in three games.

Freemantle had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Xavier. Jack Nunge finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. But it was a rough night for Big East scoring leader Souley Boum and backcourt mate Colby Jones. The two were a combined 4 of 26 from the field and 0 for 8 on 3-pointers, with Boum scoring a season-low four and Jones finishing with eight points.

“They’re also the same two guys that allowed us to be the No. 8 team in America,” coach Sean Miller said. “You win as a team and you lose as a team. This is the first time since I’ve coached these guys that I thought we had selfishness throughout our offense.”

TIGHT FINISH

Coming off a loss to Seton Hall after beating Villanova last week, DePaul led 64-57 with 7:49 remaining after Caleb Murphy hit a pull-up jumper. But Xavier reeled off seven straight, tying it on Freemantle’s layup off a turnover by the Nelson.

STRONG START

Gibson scored 17 in the first half and Johnson added 14 points for DePaul, including a 3 from the wing just before the buzzer that sent the Blue Demons to the locker room leading 45-40.

They were up 31-26 when Xavier went on a 10-2 run that Jerome Hunter finished with a dunk, making it 36-33 with 3:39 left in the half. Gibson then put DePaul back on top with a four-point play.

It was tied at 40 in the closing minute when DePaul’s Eral Penn made two free throws. Boum missed a driving layup before Johnson nailed a 3 to give the Blue Demons a five-point halftime lead.

BIG PICTURE:

Xavier: The Musketeers came in leading the Big East in scoring at 84.2 points per game, field-goal percentage and 3-point accuracy, only to turn in this dud. They shot 38% overall while making 4 of 20 3s and finished with just 13 assists. “If we play offense the way played offense in this game, there’s plenty of more losses coming,” Miller said.

DePaul: The big question for the Blue Demons now is whether they can build on this and use the win as a springboard for the program.

UP NEXT

Xavier: Hosts Georgetown on Saturday.

DePaul: Visits No. 22 Providence on Saturday.

No. 22 Xavier hands No. 2 UConn its first loss, 83-73

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CINCINNATI – Zach Freemantle scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Colby Jones also scored 16, helping No. 22 Xavier hand No. 2 UConn its first loss of the season, 83-73, on Saturday.

Jack Nunge started for Xavier despite an illness that limited him during warmups. He didn’t rejoin the team after halftime until a couple of minutes into the half but finished with 15 points in 24 minutes.

“Thirty minutes before tipoff, he was sleeping,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “He looked awful, but he didn’t have a fever. He did the best that he could. We certainly wouldn’t have won if he didn’t play.”

Nunge’s effort wasn’t lost on his teammates.

“Jack came through in the biggest way,” Freemantle said. “He was in there getting fluids, then to see him be that impactful was motivating.”

Xavier (12-3, 4-0 Big East), which joined the AP Top 25 rankings this week, won its eighth consecutive game. Its three losses have come by a combined 13 points to Indiana, Duke, Gonzaga.

Adama Sanogo led UConn with 18 points. Andre Jackson Jr. scored 14 points and Jordan Hawkins had 11 for the Huskies.

UConn (14-1, 3-1 Big East) was off to its best start since beginning the 1998 season 19-0 and going on to win its first NCAA championship. The loss Saturday kept the Huskies from their best start since 1994-95 and left only No. 1 Purdue and No. 22 New Mexico as the only undefeated Division I teams this season.

“The group is real down,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “These guys wanted to make a statement on the road and have a chance to be No. 1 on Monday. Xavier’s as good as anybody in the league. Not many teams in the country could have come in here and won this game.”

Jerome Hunter’s 15 points for Xavier tied a career high. He had a career-high 10 rebounds in a win Wednesday at St. John’s, all off the bench.

“Jerome was the difference in the game tonight,” Miller said. “His energy was contagious.”

Hurley became increasingly displeased by the free-throw disparity. Xavier went 23 of 28 from the line while UConn was just 4 of 9.

With Xavier leading 74-71 with 2:25 to go after a Freemantle free throw, Hurley was assessed a technical foul for barking at the referees. Souley Boum hit two free throws and Freemantle hit his second, putting Xavier ahead 77-71.

The Musketeers finished the game on a 12-2 run.

“Put yourself in my shoes,” Hurley said. “You’re aware of the free-throw discrepancy. You see that. It’s factored into your mind. I wish I wouldn’t have said `unbelievable.”‘

Xavier led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but UConn ended the half on a 16-5 run to take a one-point lead into halftime.

Freemantle had 11 points and six rebounds in the first half to help the Musketeers get off to a fast start.

His corner 3-pointer put the Musketeers ahead 66-62 with 7:17 left.

“We beat one of the best teams in college basketball,” Miller said. “They are a very talented, well-oiled group. You have to beat them. They don’t beat themselves.”

ICE COLD

UConn went 13 of 37 from 3-point range. The 37 attempts were one shy of a school record. “Maybe we could have been more selective,” Hurley said. “It’s one of those days. Alex (Karaban) with those types of looks would normally go 4 of 8, not 2 of 8. We just couldn’t make that big shot.”

BIG PICTURE

UConn: Depth has been the hallmark of this Huskies squad, with 10 players averaging more than 14 minutes. All nine players who played Saturday scored for the Huskies.

Xavier: Turnovers have been an issue for the Musketeers, who averaged 14.1 turnovers coming in, with 15 or more eight times this season. They had only five turnovers in the second half Saturday after committing seven in the first half.

UP NEXT

UConn: At Providence on Wednesday.

Xavier: At Villanova on Saturday.

Former Arizona coach Sean Miller not sanctioned in NCAA case

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Former Arizona coach Sean Miller escaped sanctions when a report from the Independent Accountability Resolution Process largely accepted the program’s self-imposed penalties stemming from a NCAA rules violations case that dates back to 2017.

Arizona’s athletics program was put on three years of probation through 2025. The school announced a one-year postseason ban in December 2020, which took effect for the 2020-21 season.

The IARP report released said former assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was given a 10-year show-cause penalty after he “solicited and accepted $20,000 in cash bribes and paid $40,000 for a fraudulent academic transcript.”

Another former assistant coach, Mark Phelps, was given a two-year show cause after he provided “an impermissible benefit to a student-athlete and then directed the student-athlete to conceal the violation.”

Miller emerged largely unscathed from the report. He is now the head coach at Xavier.

“All of the actions, or nearly all of the actions that these two assistant coaches took, were covert,” IARP arbitrator Dana Welch said. “With respect to former assistant men’s basketball coach No. 1, they were criminal. It took the FBI two years of wiretapping to find out what he had done. So in our view, these kind of actions could not have been detected by the head coach.”

The basketball program will also lose one additional scholarship for the 2023-24 season.

“This has been a long journey and I am glad everything is finally finished,” Miller said in a statement. “I am excited to move forward. I’d like to thank my wife Amy and my entire family, (Xavier) President (Colleen) Hanycz and (Xavier athletic director) Greg Christopher for their support through the completion of this process.”

The Independent Accountability Resolution Process was created to handle particularly complex cases and acts outside the purview of the NCAA.

The infractions report said it “found no violation for the former head men’s basketball coach because the hearing panel determined that the former head men’s basketball coach demonstrated that he promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored two of his assistant coaches regarding the academic eligibility of men’s basketball prospective student-athletes, rebutting the presumption of head coach responsibility.”

The panel’s decision is final, meaning there will be no appeals.

Arizona was originally accused of nine counts of misconduct, including five Level I violations, in a Notice of Allegations sent by the NCAA in October 2020. The violations included a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor by the university, and lack of head coach control by Miller.

But the IARP report was much more lenient on Miller in its report.

Arizona announced in April 2021 that Miller was leaving the school after 12 seasons. The Wildcats hired former Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd to take his place.

Miller routinely pulled in some of the nation’s top recruiting classes after being lured from Xavier in 2009, but his recruiting methods came under scrutiny when Richardson was among 10 people arrested as part of a federal corruption investigation into college basketball.

Richardson was fired by the university and later pleaded guilty to accepting $20,000 in bribes from aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins. He was sentenced to three months in prison in 2019.

Miller sat out a game in 2018 after ESPN reported that he was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to future No. 1 overall NBA pick Deandre Ayton. Miller vehemently denied the report and university President Robert C. Robbins announced a few days later that Miller would remain the Wildcats’ coach.

The investigation also included Arizona’s swimming and diving program, which received relatively minor penalties.

No. 8 Duke locks down late, holds off Xavier 71-64

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PORTLAND, Ore. – After a shaky offensive performance in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, Duke coach Jon Scheyer wanted to see Jeremy Roach get back to playing more instinctively, especially at the offensive end of the floor.

Roach responded with a season-high 21 points, Mark Mitchell added 16 and No. 8 Duke withstood Xavier’s second-half comeback for a 71-64 win on Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advanced to the championship game thanks to the play of their standout guard and another strong defensive effort. Roach came one point shy of matching his career high, and the Blue Devils rebounded after an unexpectedly tight victory over Oregon State in the opening round of the event.

Roach was 3 of 14 shooting against Oregon State as the Blue Devils scored a season-low 54 points. He made 9 of 15 shots and had five assists against Xavier.

“There’s a lot that falls on your shoulders so you can end up overthinking it a little bit,” Scheyer said. “The thing that I love for him today is he just was him. And when he’s that way, he is to me the best guard in the country.”

The Musketeers (4-2) were held to two points over the final five minutes and missed their last four shot attempts. Souley Boum scored 23 points and Adam Kunkel had 13. Kunkel didn’t play the last 11 minutes after taking a hard fall committing a foul.

Xavier leading scorer Jack Nudge was 1 of 13 shooting and finished with five points.

“Jack played a great effort. He really did. He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

At the same time, Miller was disappointed in what he called the “fracturing” he saw from his team.

“There were spurts and segments of the game where I thought we reflected our style, how we’re trying to play, whether it be defense and offense. But there were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times in our own way,” Miller said.

Mitchell scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half, including a pair of layups, and he hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Duke a 49-36 lead, its largest of the game.

That’s when Xavier’s comeback started. The Musketeers pulled within three points on several occasions, but Duke answered each time. Desmond Claude’s driving layup pulled Xavier within 63-60 with 5:51 left, but Ryan Young scored for Duke and Xavier didn’t make another basket.

Roach’s jumper with 2:40 left pushed Duke’s lead to 69-62.

“We like to play inside out but I mean, when guys are hitting shots it just opens up for everybody else,” Roach said. “Just try to continue to be consistent hitting shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

Kyle Filipowski had 12 points and was not Duke’s leading scorer for the first time in five games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils’ dominance on the backboards finally came to an end. Duke had outrebounded each of its first six opponents by double figures, the longest such stretch in school history. But Xavier’s interior size limited Duke to a 33-32 advantage on the glass. The Blue Devils had 12 second-chance points.

Xavier: The Musketeers played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since beating Virginia Tech in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Xavier dropped to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season, having lost to Indiana last week. The Musketeers will play another ranked foe in Sunday’s third-place game.

UP NEXT

Duke will face the Gonzaga-Purdue winner in the championship game on Sunday, while Xavier will play the loser.