STORRS, Conn. (AP)No. 13 Xavier went into Connecticut and earned the signature road win it was seeking.
Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and the Musketeers checked that goal off their to-do list by holding off No. 19 UConn 82-79 on 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.
”We all knew in the locker room that they were going to make a run. That’s what great teams do,” Jones said. ”Just how we responded to it, that’s what we wanted to see.”
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 before dropping six of their last eight.
The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.
”There is no telling what would have happened if they had taken the lead,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. ”The roof may have blown off. So, I think that when they were really close and we answered with a basket or a free throw, I think that continued to help us just keep fighting.”
A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left, but a second-chance layup by Nunge extended the lead to 80-77 just more than a minute later.
Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his attempt to intentionally 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 inside half court was well short.
Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 advantage 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.
”You can’t put yourself in a 17-point hole versus quality like that and expect to be able to dig yourself out like we did,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said.
Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory – 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 versus Creighton.
UConn, once ranked No. 2 in the nation, doesn’t play again until next Tuesday and could fall out of the AP Top 25.
Xavier will look to move back toward the top 10 when it plays Saturday at Creighton.
Xavier shot 53.4% from the floor. UConn shot 50% in the second half, but was held to just 10 baskets on 31 shots (32.3%) in the first.
Freemantle, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds in the teams’ first meeting, scored nine this time but fouled out with six minutes left. Miller said he had been told by the official scorer that Freemantle had three personal fouls. But he also had picked up a fourth on a double technical with UConn’s Donovan Clingan.
”If Zach would have had four fouls, I wouldn’t have put him in mid-second half, I would have waited a lot longer, because he would have only had one left,” Miller said. ”They might have got it right or wrong, but it’s hard when you’re told he has three. He commits a foul and then all of a sudden it goes from three to five.”
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.
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