No. 15 Xavier beats No. 24 Creighton 82-60 in Big East semis
NEW YORK — Souley Boum scored 23 points, Jack Nunge added 17 and No. 15 Xavier cruised into the Big East Tournament championship game with an 82-60 victory against No. 24 Creighton on Friday night.
Coach Sean Miller's second-seeded Musketeers (25-8) will face top-seeded and sixth-ranked Marquette (27-6) on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in a matchup of teams looking for their first Big East Tournament title.
Xavier has played in the final just once since joining the conference in 2013-14, losing to Villanova in 2015.
The Musketeers seemed to have the smallest contingent of fans at The Garden on semifinal night, but they practically had the place to themselves to celebrate as the clock wound down on a decisive victory.
Boum made a 3-pointer from the wing with 13:55 left to increase the lead to 18 and Creighton (21-12) couldn't get enough stops to make a run. Xavier shot 52% in the second half and 47% for the game.
Ryan Kalkbrenner led Creighton with 18 points on 7-for-7 shooting. The rest of the Bluejays went 14 for 49 from the field.
Creighton was looking for its third straight Big East championship game appearance and fifth overall. The Bluejays have yet to win the conference tournament since joining the league in 2013-14.
Miller, in the first season of his second stint as Xavier coach, has the Muskeeters in position to win their first conference tournament title since his first run at the Cincinnati school.
Xavier won the Atlantic 10 Tournament in 2006.
Miller spent 12 seasons at Arizona before parting ways with the school after the 2020-21 season amid an NCAA investigation related to the FBI's case on college basketball recruiting corruption. Miller was never sanctioned by the NCAA.
After a season away from coaching, he returned to Xavier. Miller inherited a veteran team and led it to program-high 15 Big East wins in the regular season.
The Musketeers needed a late comeback to beat 10th-seeded DePaul in the quarterfinals Thursday. But against Creighton, Xavier led almost start to finish.
Xavier built 40-26 lead at halftime, turning 11 Creighton turnovers into 17 points. Boum scored eight straight for the Musketeers during one stretch, with consecutive 3s upping the lead to 12.
Creighton: Point guard Ryan Nembhard, who missed last season's run to the Big East title game because of a wrist injury, finished with five points on 2-for-12 shooting. The Bluejays don't have much depth and have a hard time overcoming a bad game by one of their solid starting five.
Xavier: The Musketeers improved to 8-3 since forward Zach Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder, went out with a season-ending left foot injury. The 6-foot-9 senior ranks third on the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game. The three losses were by a combined four points, including a 69-68 defeat at Marquette.
Creighton: The Bluejays are in good shape to make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season.
Xavier: The Musketeers split with Marquette this season in games decided by a combined five points.