Crosstown Blowout: Jack Nunge leads Xavier on UC
There was a time when Cincinnati entered every meeting with Xavier with a reasonable expectation that they would win the game. After all, Xavier was the scrappy upstart team of the smaller conference with far less national fanfare. Today’s schedule situations have shifted, except the Bearcats seem to have missed the memo that the lesser-advertised team is raising their game for the biggest rivalry in college basketball. For the third year in a row, Xavier has intimidated another timid iteration of a UC program that, wrongly, still does justice to the idea that their identity lies in their tenacity.
During the first 7 minutes of this game, Wes Miller’s Bearcats were efficient in deploying their strategy, which seemed to crumble and fidget at any sign of physical contact and hoping a comically bad team of umpires. , albeit impartial, would reward their tactics. They were leading 11-10 and Xavier looked uncomfortable on offense, with the exception of Jack Nunge, who already had 6 points and looked at the whole world as a force for which the largely ineffective frontline of the ‘UC had no response.
From there, Xavier’s superior depth and tenacity took hold. A 25-9 run would place control completely in the hands of the Musketeers as 7 different players scored in the game’s decisive streak. Nunge himself was on 8 as Xavier rained buckets on a UC team that had no answer to stop the Musketeers and little on how to penetrate a swarming defense that kept them off balance with a variety of looks from man, zone and press. Xavier’s lead would increase to 16 before the teams trade their baskets before half-time and make their way to the locker room with the game almost decided. Xavier’s lead wasn’t insurmountable at 42-27, but it would take a much more combative team than this version of the Bearcats to climb back into this one. After 20 minutes UC was beaten and they knew it.
The first 4:29 of the second half featured 0 field goals before David DeJulius hit a jumper and Nunge responded with a rare 4-point play to signal he hadn’t let the talent that distinguished him from the big UC men in the locker room. He would go ahead and score Xavier’s next 9 and a sweet tear from Adam Kunkel approaching the 10-minute mark would increase the lead to 20 and end the idea that the beginning of the Wes Miller era in the shooting would be different from the end of the John Brannen era. Xavier continued to pour it from various locations as Colby Jones, hampered by early foul issues. make his presence felt and Adam Kunkel provided his best livewire energy alongside the relentless bulldog Dwon Odom.
In the end, Xavier’s bench scored 56 points, Xavier led UC in paint by 12, and Nunge led Xavier to complete glass dominance. The Bearcats will return limping through town amid screaming protests from their fans that UC is now a school of football knowing that there is hardly any aspect of the game in which they haven’t been completely dominated this evening.
When this game is reviewed, the story will be about 2 men. Even though Brian O’Connell and Jamie Luckie were tired of making these two men, no one will remember their putrid contribution to an otherwise enjoyable show. Instead, people will see this game as perhaps not a crowning achievement for Paul Scruggs’ Xavier career, but as an important one. And tonight it was a vintage Scruggs. 14/5/5 with a pair of interceptions and just 1 turnover while disrupting DeJulius with 12 points on 13 shots was just what Xavier needed from their super senior. He never got the upper hand and went shooting hunting, he just played quietly after the game that needed to be done and when the dust settled he was the first player X to beat UC 4 times. If the historic feat belonged to Scruggs, the man of the hour is Jack Nunge. 31/15/2 says a lot, but it doesn’t say everything. Nunge was absolutely unstoppable tonight. No one UC threw at him could do anything but hack him, and they did. Teen and Oguama combined for 9 fouls in 25 minutes, unable to keep Nunge quiet within the rules of the game. His 4-point game was a rarity, but his one-handed tip with Oguama draped over him to give Xavier their first. The game’s double-digit lead was his most dramatic contribution. His performance will go down in the annals of Shootout lore as one of the most significant contributions in the history of this rivalry. It was Jack Nunge’s game.