Jack Nunge, Colby Jones rally No. 15 Xavier past DePaul

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Colby Jones led a 14-4 run to close the game and finished with 22 points to rally No. 15 Xavier past DePaul 89-84 in a Big East quarterfinal Thursday night in New York.

Jack Nunge had game highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds for second-seeded Xavier (24-8), which had lost four straight Big East tournament games dating to their last win, coming in the 2019 quarterfinals.

Nunge’s tip-in with 2:01 left put Xavier up 81-80, its first lead since 3-2. A DePaul turnover led to a midcourt steal and floater by Jones to cap an 8-0 Xavier run and put the Musketeers ahead 83-80 with 1:16 left. Jones nailed a jumper with 42 seconds left to restore a three-point margin before the Musketeers salted it away at the foul line.

Umoja Gibson had 22 points and six assists while Nick Ongenda added 16 points for 10th-seeded DePaul (10-23), which still has never reached the Big East semifinal round in their 18 seasons in the conference.

Riding the momentum from Wednesday’s dramatic last-second win over Seton Hall, DePaul used hot 3-point shooting to race out to a 39-26 lead.

With star big man Zach Freemantle out for the season following left foot surgery, Xavier rallied behind Nunge, who made his first four shots from the floor and led the Musketeers on a 7-0 run that cut DePaul’s lead down to six.

But DePaul scored the next five points for a 44-33 lead. The Blue Demons shot a red-hot 69 percent from the floor and 7-of-10 from beyond the arc for a 49-40 halftime edge.

DePaul continued its sharp shooting after halftime, matching its largest lead of the day at 59-46 with 14:25 left before Xavier began its push.

Gibson picked up his fourth foul with eight minutes remaining and went to the bench with DePaul leading, 73-65.

Adam Kunkel hit a pair of free throws and Jones drained a 3-pointer to cut DePaul’s lead to 73-71 with 5:53 remaining. With Xavier’s momentum building and DePaul going cold from the field, Gibson returned to the game and promptly drilled a 3 to put the Blue Demons up five.

Xavier once again drew within three, 80-77, when Jones was fouled by Eral Penn on a put-back layup with 3:38 remaining. Jones’ floater brought Xavier within 80-79 with 2:57 left.

–Field Level Media

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