OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Jack Nunge and Paul Scruggs fueled a dramatic second-half turnaround that saw No. 21 Xavier score 29 of the first 31 points of the second half to wipe out a 17-point deficit and beat Creighton 74-64 on Saturday.
Scruggs scored 18 points and Nunge made a career-high four 3-pointers and had all 16 of his points in the second half as the Musketeers won for the first time in three games. Zach Freemantle had 16 points and Nate Johnson made five 3s for all 15 of his points.
Xavier (15-5, 5-4 Big East) swept the two-game season series and won in Omaha for the first time since 2018.
Creighton (12-7, 4-4) dropped its second straight and lost for the first time in conference play at home. It was the Bluejays’ biggest blown lead at CHI Health Center, which opened in 2003.
Xavier had overcome a 12-point deficit to win at DePaul, 68-67, on Jan. 19, but that was against one of the bottom teams in the Big East.
In front of a packed house juiced up from watching the Bluejays build a big early lead, this comeback was much more improbable.
The Musketeers had shot 23% in the first half and scored their fewest points in a half this season while getting down 36-19.
Then everything changed.
The 7-foot Nunge, who entered the game a 29% 3-point shooter, splashed in two straight 3s from the top of the key to begin the game-defining 29-2 run. The Musketeers made 5 of 7 3s and 12 of 19 shots overall during the run while Creighton was 0 for 8 and committed seven turnovers.
Xavier was 10 of 19 on 3s after going 1 of 7 from distance in the first half. The Musketeers shot 66% overall in the second half.
Ryan Nembhard led the Bluejays with 23 points and Ryan Kalkbrenner had 13.
Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma combined for 18 of the Bluejays’ first 22 points, and they were up 10 early as Xavier went through a 2-for-20 shooting lull.
Kalkbrenner’s three-point play finished a 19-6 run that put Creighton up 25-12. Back-to-back 3s by Alex O’Connell, another by Nembhard and Kalkbrenner’s second-chance putback made it 36-19 at half.
It was Creighton’s 12th Pink Out Game, with the Bluejays’ special white-and-pink uniforms auctioned and proceeds going to help support cancer patients in Omaha.
Xavier: The Musketeers’ comeback was their largest in five years. A key stat is 3-point shooting: they were 11 of 48 in their previous two games and the first half against Creighton; they were 9 of 12 in the second half.
Creighton: This was a devastating blow for a Bluejays team trying to work its way out of the middle of the pack of the conference.
Xavier: hosts Butler on Wednesday.
Creighton: visits UConn on Tuesday.