Kunkel crushes Duke until concussion, Boum booms in close loss to Gonzaga
By Justin Malone, Staff Writer
Xavier men’s basketball team had a solid fourth-place finish last weekend in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament held in Oregon that ended with an exhilarating victory over Florida.
The tournament, named after the influential co-founder of Nike and Basketball Hall of Famer Phil Knight, featured eight men’s and four women’s premier collegiate basketball programs affiliated with apparel deals to the famous brand.
The tournament also gave Xavier the chance to test itself against some of the best programs in the country, including Florida, who was predicted to finish seventh out of 14 teams in a competitive Southeastern Conference, No. 17 Duke and No. 14 Gonzaga.
The field also included No. 5 Purdue, West Virginia, Oregon State and Portland State.
Xavier began their tournament run by fending off the menacing chomp of the Gators in a thrilling 90-83 victory, as five Musketeers finished with double-digit points.
The high-scoring affair marked a career night for graduate guard Souley Boum and junior guard Colby Jones, who each put up 22 points and led the way for the Musketeers. Boum recorded a game-high six assists, five rebounds and two steals, and Jones added five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a career-high four three-pointers of his own.
The Musketeers also nailed 55.9% of their shot attempts during the game, which was the team’s fourth game shooting more than 50% from the floor this season and hit a season-high 10 three-pointers.
The game was back and forth throughout the first half, with Florida racing out to a quick five-point lead, followed by Xavier responding with 14 unanswered points.
The contest featured eight ties and 11 lead changes. However, miscues by the Gators offense and inefficient Florida transitions during the second half allowed Xavier to pull ahead and extend their lead to 11.
Even though Florida kept the game close to the finish, the Musketeers sealed the win off of layups from Nunge and Kunkel, a jump shot from Boum and free throws from Freemantle and Nunge.
The second and third games of the weekend did not go as planned for the Musketeers, as they narrowly lost by seven to Duke and four to Gonzaga, showing that they can compete with some of the nation’s best programs.
The Musketeers started off strong against the Blue Devils, initiating a 16-5 run over a four-minute period to take the lead by as many as four. Duke responded with a 15-2 run, triggered by back-to-back three-pointers, that put them into a 40-34 lead before halftime.
Xavier fought until the end of the game, pulling within three multiple times before the end of the second half, but they never regained the lead.
The bright spots for the Musketeers included Boum, who led all scorers with 23 points and went 12-12 from the free throw line, and senior guard Adam Kunkel who had 20 points and Jones who contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Without Kunkel, who suffered a concussion against Duke, Xavier struggled early against a strong Gonzaga team that led by as much as 12 in the first half but managed to finish the half only down by six.
Early in the half, the Zags fought their way to a double-digit lead until the Musketeers outscored them 25-7 over an eight-minute stretch to claim an eight-point lead.
However, costly mistakes in defensive efforts and rebounding allowed Gonzaga to respond with an 8-0 run and a 10-0 run that put them up for good, even with the Musketeers scoring 50 points in the second half.
Leading Xavier’s impressive but disappointing performance was Nunge, who finished with a season and game-high 25 points, 16 of which came in the second half. Jones added 22 points, and Freemantle contributed 14 points.
The Musketeers hope to rebound from their learning experience in the Legacy Tournament as they take on Southeastern Louisiana in Cintas Center tonight.
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