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Nunge's block seals Xavier's win over Kennesaw St in NCAAs

Xavier guard Colby Jones passes away from Kennesaw State guard Kasen Jennings during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NC...
Kennesaw State forward Demond Robinson vies for the ball with Xavier forward Jerome Hunter during the first half of a first-round college basketball g...
Kennesaw State guard Simeon Cottle celebrates after scoring against Xavier during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA ...
Xavier guard Souley Boum Kennesaw State forward Demond Robinson vie for the ball during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the...
Kennesaw State guard Simeon Cottle, top, vies for the ball with Xavier guard Colby Jones during the first half of a first-round college basketball gam...
Kennesaw State's Demond Robinson, bottom, battles for a loose ball during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Xavier in th...
Kennesaw State head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim yells during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Xavier in the NCAA Tournament ...
Xavier head coach Sean Miller reacts during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Kennesaw State in the NCAA Tournament, Fri...
Xavier forward Jerome Hunter dunks against Kennesaw State during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Fri...
Kennesaw State's Brandon Stroud (5) battles Xavier's Jerome Hunter (2) and Souley Boum (0) for a loose ball during the first half of a first-round col...
Kennesaw State guard Simeon Cottle (2) goes in for a short as Xavier's Souley Boum (0) defends during the first half of a first-round college basketba...
Terrell Burden (1) tries to get around Desmond Claude (1) during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Fri...
Xavier's Jerome Hunter scores during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Kennesaw State in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, ...
Xavier guard Colby Jones celebrates after their win against Kennesaw State in a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, ...
Kennesaw State guard Quincy Ademokoya leaves court after their loss against Xavier during a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament...
Kennesaw State guard Chris Youngblood reacts after fouling Xavier guard Colby Jones during the second half of a first-round college basketball game in...
Xavier guard Colby Jones (3) shoots as Kennesaw State guard Kasen Jennings (13) defends during the first half of a first-round college basketball game...
Kennesaw guard Terrell Burden (1) and Xavier guard Colby Jones (3) battle for the ball during the first half of a first-round college basketball game ...
Kennesaw State guard Terrell Burden leaves court after their loss against Xavier during a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament o...

Xavier guard Colby Jones passes away from Kennesaw State guard Kasen Jennings during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NC...

Kennesaw State forward Demond Robinson vies for the ball with Xavier forward Jerome Hunter during the first half of a first-round college basketball g...

Kennesaw State guard Simeon Cottle celebrates after scoring against Xavier during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA ...

Xavier guard Souley Boum Kennesaw State forward Demond Robinson vie for the ball during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the...

Kennesaw State guard Simeon Cottle, top, vies for the ball with Xavier guard Colby Jones during the first half of a first-round college basketball gam...

Kennesaw State's Demond Robinson, bottom, battles for a loose ball during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Xavier in th...

Kennesaw State head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim yells during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Xavier in the NCAA Tournament ...

Xavier head coach Sean Miller reacts during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Kennesaw State in the NCAA Tournament, Fri...

Xavier forward Jerome Hunter dunks against Kennesaw State during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Fri...

Kennesaw State's Brandon Stroud (5) battles Xavier's Jerome Hunter (2) and Souley Boum (0) for a loose ball during the first half of a first-round col...

Kennesaw State guard Simeon Cottle (2) goes in for a short as Xavier's Souley Boum (0) defends during the first half of a first-round college basketba...

Terrell Burden (1) tries to get around Desmond Claude (1) during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Fri...

Xavier's Jerome Hunter scores during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Kennesaw State in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, ...

Xavier guard Colby Jones celebrates after their win against Kennesaw State in a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, ...

Kennesaw State guard Quincy Ademokoya leaves court after their loss against Xavier during a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament...

Kennesaw State guard Chris Youngblood reacts after fouling Xavier guard Colby Jones during the second half of a first-round college basketball game in...

Xavier guard Colby Jones (3) shoots as Kennesaw State guard Kasen Jennings (13) defends during the first half of a first-round college basketball game...

Kennesaw guard Terrell Burden (1) and Xavier guard Colby Jones (3) battle for the ball during the first half of a first-round college basketball game ...

Kennesaw State guard Terrell Burden leaves court after their loss against Xavier during a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament o...

GREENSBORO, N.C (AP) — Terrell Burden got a shoulder past his defender and pushed into the paint, locking in on the rim for a chance to move Kennesaw State within reach of its first-ever NCAA Tournament win.

Instead, Xavier's Jack Nunge descended on him to make the play that capped the Musketeers' late defensive surge — and saved their season.

Nunge blocked Burden's driving attempt at a go-ahead layup in the final seconds, and Xavier dug out of a 13-point hole against surprising Kennesaw State to escape with a 72-67 victory in Friday's first round.

The 7-footer's block was part of the reason the Owls shot 2-for-15 over the final 9 1/2 minutes, reversing the momentum in a game that had often left third-seeded Xavier (26-9) looking befuddled.

“We didn't really change much, and that's oftentimes the story," said coach Sean Miller, back for his second stint with the Musketeers. “We just did what we do better.”

Souley Boum hit four clinching free throws in the final 2.6 seconds for the Musketeers, who ran off 15 unanswered points as part of a game-ending 24-6 run. That was enough to turn away the 14th-seeded Owls (26-9) in the program's first-ever March Madness game.

Xavier moves on to face 11th-seeded Pittsburgh on Sunday in the Midwest Region.

Xavier led 68-67 when Burden — who'd been successful all day with dribble penetration — made his move into the paint. But Nunge rotated over and swatted the ball into the backboard.

“In the timeout, we were supposed to switch everything,” Nunge said, adding: “He's a really good driver at getting to the rim and I just came over and blocked it.”

Burden said everything with the play ran as designed until Nunge's arrival.

“It was a great play by him to meet me at the rim,” Burden said.

The ball eventually made its way to Boum, who hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left for a 70-67 lead. The Owls had a chance to set up a 3-pointer for the tie, but that desperate play ended when Spencer Rodgers' right foot landed on the sideline as he caught the inbound pass.

Jerome Hunter scored a career-best 24 points to lead the Musketeers, while Boum had 17. Nunge had 10 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Burden and Chris Youngblood each scored 14 points to lead Kennesaw State, which appeared on the verge of a signature March moment, playing with an aggressive edge while backed by vocal pockets of fans. At one point, the 5-10 Burden got Nunge on a switch, pulled him outside and blew past him for a layup and a 61-48 lead.

But that's when Xavier started its desperate push back — and Nunge was ready when Burden challenged him again.

“We did some things early on both ends of the court that helped build that 13-point lead,” Kennesaw State coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said. “But if anybody in that building thought that was going to be how the game stayed, you hadn't watched much basketball in March — and you probably haven't watched much basketball in general.”

BIG PICTURE

Kennesaw State: The Owls earned their first bid with a rapid climb, improving from a 1-28 season in Abdur-Rahim’s first year. And before this year, the dual-campus Georgia school with nearly 43,000 students had never had a winning record in its Division I era, which began in the 2005-06 season. It was a memorable season that came oh-so-close to adding a historic win.

Xavier: Five years ago, the Musketeers had won 29 games and reached the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in 17 seasons, a stretch that began under Miller. But they hadn't made it since. Miller returned this season for his second stint at Xavier after 12 years at Arizona and immediately ended that five-year drought. It's also his first trip to the NCAAs since 2018 with the Wildcats.

ALL GOOD

Boum and teammate Adam Kunkel traded words on the court — with Boum giving Kunkel a bump — leading into a late timeout. They continued jawing across the bench until teammates stepped in.

Boum and Kunkel both shrugged it off, with Kunkel calling it “just the heat of the game.”

“We've got to be on point with stuff, and if we get a little emotional, it's nothing personal,” Boum said, adding they “hugged it out.”

WARM FAREWELL

After the game, Abdur-Rahim gathered his team for a moment at midcourt before the Owls headed for the locker room while waving to their boisterous fans.

“I am so proud of this group: who they've become, what they're about, but more importantly, how they respond to adversity, and even how they respond to success," he said during his news conference, which at one point had him fighting back tears.

"That was a fun basketball game out there today, man. It gets no better than that.”

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25