by Tim Daniel
Tonight in Portland Sean Miller was very thankful for his two guards Souley Boum and Colby Jones.
Jones, Boum, and the rest of the Xavier starting five were highly relied on tonight to carry the Musketeers to victory over Florida and onto a big game tomorrow against the Duke Blue Devils, likely the most talented team Xavier will face this season.
Although Xavier's defense was a tad inconsistent, they were able to lock down when needed to keep the chances of a PK85 title available. With 12:49 remaining in the game, the score was all knotted up at 58 when Gators guard Alex Fudge had a fast break dunk that he missed which lead to Colby Jones hitting a big three-pointer giving Xavier a five-point swing and a three-point lead on the scoreboard.
From there Xavier went on to outscore Florida 32-25, though Florida didn't go away and kept fighting cutting the deficit to just two points with 5:46 remaining. At that point, Adam Kunkel had five big points to put this game away and advance.
While Xavier got big play from the aforementioned three players, their bigs continued to be as reliable as they have been throughout the season. Jack Nunge scored 16 points while collecting nine rebounds and also guarded Gators star player Colin Castleton. The former Michigan transfer struggled for the majority of the game with Xavier throwing Nunge at him while also mixing in a fair share of double-teams forcing the Gator big man to get the ball out of his hands to his perimeter scorers.
Zach Freemantle had another double-double with 14 points and eleven rebounds, while also having perfect shooting from the floor with his sole miss coming at the free-throw line.
Now that they have moved on from a great game against the Gators, they now will be matched up against the Duke Blue Devils. Like always, Duke is an extremely talented team though had its share of struggles today against Oregon State. Duke won 54-51 but shot just 27% from the floor as a team.
The tip-off will be at 3:30 PM EST on ESPN.