GAME NOTES: Both the Xavier Musketeers and Creighton Bluejays take eight-game win streaks into their clash for Big East Conference supremacy at the CenturyLink Center on Sunday.
After losing three straight games earlier in the season, Xavier has bounced back to win eight in a row, including the first three in Big East play, working toward a 13-3 overall record. The Musketeers downed Marquette, 86-79, in their last outing.
Creighton had a similar experience earlier, losing two in a row before going on to win eight consecutive games. The Bluejays seek to make it nine in a row and maintain a perfect conference record on their home court. Creighton defeated DePaul 81-61 in its last contest.
Xavier has a hold of the all-time series against Creighton, 9-6, though the two teams have split the series in Omaha. Greg McDermott has never faced Xavier before, while Chris Mack is 1-0 versus the Bluejays.
The Musketeers didn't have the easiest time dispelling Marquette in their last matchup, though a career night from guard Semaj Christon helped give Xavier the edge. Christon poured in 28 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and added nine free throws in the victory. Justin Martin netted 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Dee Davis (13) and James Farr (10) each recorded double-digit point totals. Xavier shot 52.2 percent from the floor in the game.
Christon's big night helped boost his stat totals this season, increasing his team-leading scoring average to 15.6 ppg and a cool 46.6 shooting percentage from the field. Christon is by far the team leader in assists, dishing out 69 total this season. Center Matt Stainbrook is second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 ppg and a team-high 8.4 rpg. Defense is key at Xavier, as the Musketeers hold their opponents to 64.6 ppg.
Creighton didn't need any late-game heroics or crunch time baskets to handle DePaul in its last outing. The Bluejays easily cast the Blue Demons aside in a Big East rout. All-American Doug McDermott netted a team-high 19 points and grabbed five rebounds to help Creighton speed past DePaul, but 16 points off the bench by Avery Dingman were just as valuable to the effort. Ethan Wragge scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds, tying the team lead in the game.
McDermott continues to coast through this season as one of the top scorers in not just the Big East, but the nation at 24.3 ppg. McDermott is shooting 48.4 percent from the floor, including 90.6 percent from the free-throw line, a place he frequents on a regular basis. He's questionable to play in this game, however, after suffering a sprained right shoulder. Wragge is second on the team at 12.1 ppg, while regular starter Jahenns Manigat nets a third-best 8.1 ppg. The Bluejays are scoring 81.5 ppg this season.
This matchup in Omaha features two of the three Big East teams with a perfect 3-0 conference record. It's hard to argue against either one, but with the home advantage and some solid defensive play, Creighton has the upper hand, if of course, McDermott is on the floor.
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