No. 8 Xavier seeks to begin a new winning streak when they host Georgetown in Big East Conference action on Saturday in Cincinnati.
The Musketeers (15-4, 7-1) fell at DePaul 73-72 on Wednesday for their first loss since Nov. 27, snapping an 11-game winning streak. It was their first loss to an unranked team since last March.
Souley Boum, who entered that contest leading the league with 17.6 points per game, scored a season-low four points on a dreary 1-for-12 output from the field to headline an uncharacteristically skittish offensive night for his team against the Blue Demons.
The Musketeers did not resemble a team that had averaged a league-best 84.2 points per game, as they struggled both in the paint and beyond the arc.
Xavier missed 18 layups and clanged 16 triples off the rim, finishing the night shooting just 38 percent from the floor and 20 percent from distance.
In addition to an off night from the usually reliable Boum, the Musketeers were hampered by 3-of-14 shooting from the other half of their backcourt duo, Colby Jones. Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge led Xavier with 18 and 16 points, respectively.
While it’s easy to chalk up the Musketeers’ one-point setback to their lean backcourt scoring production, first-year coach Sean Miller directed his criticism towards his squad’s struggles to share the ball.
“This is the first time since I’ve coached these guys that I thought we had selfishness throughout our offense,” Miller told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “A big function of our shooting percentage was … we didn’t run who we are, and it shows in our assists.”
The Musketeers’ 13 assists — five in the game’s first four minutes — were a sharp dip for a team that averaged an NCAA-best 21.1 helpers entering Wednesday’s game.
Even with the loss, Xavier remains an overwhelming favorite against the lowly Hoyas (5-14, 0-8), the conference’s lone winless team.
Only two of their eight league losses have been within 10 points, with Monday’s four-point defeat at Villanova their most competitive to date.
Georgetown led 71-69 with 2:22 remaining until the Wildcats clawed back to win 77-73.
Primo Spears led Georgetown with 19 points, while Jordan Riley added 18 in his third start of the season.
“I thought that our guys did a great job exhaling and keeping their composure, fought back in the game,” coach Patrick Ewing said. “I give them all the credit — they have not lost faith. They have not wavered — they continue to work. They continue to listen to the coaching and I think it’s going to come.”
While the Hoyas’ strong second half was encouraging, their lack of discipline contributed to a 28th consecutive Big East setback.
Georgetown committed a season-high 24 fouls on Monday, which led to 23 Villanova points off free throws — 18 in the second half.
“When you give a team 31 free throws, it’s hard to beat,” Ewing said.
The Musketeers will aim for a regular-season sweep of the Hoyas after they downed Georgetown in the conference opener on Dec. 16 in Washington, D.C.
In that game, Xavier notched season-highs in points (102), field goals made (41) and 3-pointers made (14) — all of which still stand — en route to a 102-89 win.
–Field Level Media