Jerome Hunter cements position as a fan favorite with three steals, six rebounds
By Spencer Tracy, Staff Writer
St. John’s arrived at Cintas for a Saturday night tip-off despite some travel mishaps, which were reflected in their play during Xavier’s dominant performance.
St. John’s flight to Cintas was canceled twice on Friday night, preventing them from getting the wheels in the air until six hours before tip-off. However, Xavier would miss star forward Zach Freemantle for a second straight game due to an ankle injury.
The number seven offense in the country was cooking that night, with a strong 17-4 run thanks to two three-pointers by junior guard Colby Jones. Before you know it, the Musketeers stretched the lead, not permitting St. Johns to find a rhythm for the offense and allowing Xavier to continue their strong start at 26-11 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Due to Freemantle’s injury, the young Xavier core — including freshmen Desmond Claude and Cam Craft as well as sophomore forward Cesare Edwards — had the opportunity to play meaningful minutes in the first half. Jack Nunge was hacked in the paint while attempting a layup, sending the graduate forward to the line with just six seconds remaining.
A 19-point deficit would be the closest this game would get for the Red Storm, while the Musketeer locker-room could hear crickets with a 49-30 lead at the half.
Head Coach Sean Miller kept the pedal on the gas, opening the half with senior guard Souley Boum hitting one of his three shots from behind the arc. The second half started just how the first half began with a 15-5 run as Xavier completely controlled the remainder of the game. By the 14th minute, Nunge splashed a three giving Xavier a 30-point lead, which would be their biggest lead of the night.
The basket was a hoolahoop for the Musketeers, shooting 54% from the field and 53% from three as they stretched the winning streak to two games after the 96-71 blowout victory.
Nunge led the team in scoring with 21 points, his second straight game with 20 plus points and fourth total this season.
Jones was just behind Nunge with 19 points, knocking down three of four shots for behind the arc along with eight boards. Senior forward, and Freemantle’s replacement in the starting lineup, Jerome Hunter has recently emerged as a fan favorite due to his contribution in the Miller system. Hunter dropped 11 points while grabbing six rebounds, two coming on the offensive side.
Although Hunter’s offensive ability has truly shined this season, his best-known quality is using his 6’8 frame and athletic ability to lock down opponents’ best scorers. He showcased this ability Saturday night with his season high of three steals, his second game this season with multiple steals.
Xavier travels to Indianapolis to take on the 11-13 Butler Bulldogs Friday night in hopes of continuing their two-game win streak.