No. 22 Xavier can push its winning streak to seven when it plays host to Marquette on Saturday afternoon in the Big East Conference opener for both teams.
Xavier (10-1) has been on a tear with six wins in a row. The Musketeers won four of their last five games by at least 20 points.
The team’s lone loss came on Nov. 24 against Iowa State at a neutral site, and Xavier is 8-0 at home to start the season.
Jerome Hunter helped lead Xavier to an 86-63 victory over Morehead State on Wednesday night. Hunter had a season-high 15 points and six rebounds, while Colby Jones added 14 points. Reserves Jack Nunge and Adam Kunkel chipped in 13 and 12, respectively.
“I always try to work inside out. I always try to start inside, then everything else on the outside starts falling,” Hunter said. “Just getting (offensive rebounds) gave me a lot of confidence to start the game off with and I think that it helped my team at the end of the day.”
The offensive attack has been extremely balanced for the Musketeers, with four players scoring in double figures. Nunge has paced Xavier with 13.0 points per game, and the Iowa transfer recently dropped a career-high 31 points against rival Cincinnati on Dec. 11.
“Jack is a talented player. He’s a great addition to the team,” guard Paul Scruggs said. “He fits perfect with us.”
The Musketeers have also been efficient, shooting over 45 percent from the field in six games, and over 45 percent from 3-point range in five.
Marquette (8-3) is coming off a 67-56 loss to No. 4 UCLA on Dec. 11, its first home loss since Feb. 6.
Greg Elliott finished with a career-high 22 points and went 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Justin Lewis added 12 points and nine rebounds, while Darryl Morsell had 11 points, four rebounds and three assists.
“It starts in practice,” Elliott said. “Being able to go in there on a daily basis and battle against my teammates is what got me ready to play.”
Although Elliott was productive, the Golden Eagles logged their second-worst shooting performance of the season, going 19 of 57 (33.3 percent) from the field and 8 of 33 (24.2 percent) from deep.
After winning seven of its first eight games, Marquette has now dropped two of its last three. Despite the brief cold spell, head coach Shake Smart is still optimistic ahead of Big East play.
“The great thing is, everybody starts league play 0-0. You play everyone in the league twice, once at home, once on the road,” Smart said. “Our mentality better be, as we say, confident underdogs, because if people are going to pick against us, you really can’t focus too much on what other people pick.”
The Golden Eagles went 8-11 in conference play last season.
Saturday’s contest will mark the 80th all-time meeting between Marquette and Xavier. The Golden Eagles have taken four of the last five matchups, with their most recent win coming on March 6. Marquette leads the all-time series 54-25.
–Field Level Media
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