For a while down the stretch, the Xavier Musketeers were arguably as cold as the weather in Chicago on Saturday. But a 19-4 run over the final 5:03 helped to muscle them over the DePaul Blue Demons, as they scored their first Big East win of the season by the score of 74-65.
The Musketeers made five of their last six shots from the field, an effort that was led by Ryan Welage, Naji Marshall, Tyrique Jones and Paul Scruggs. Welage, Marshall and Scruggs all hit three pointers while Jones stepped up with a jumper and a dunk in this sequence.
The trio of Marshall, Welage and Jones were responsible for a 10-0 run from the 5:03 to the 2:08 mark that helped prop them up from a 61-55 deficit to a 65-61 lead. Paul Reed stopped the bleeding with a jumper, but the run shot up to 19-2 up until a layup by Eli Cain “ended it” with three seconds to go.
Despite their cold shooting, Xavier traded blows for the most part with DePaul. The Blue Demons were trailing 39-32 at the break but, to their credit, got the game tied at 48 at the 11:14 mark. They alternated until the run happened, which served as a woeful reminder for DePaul of where they stand.
Xavier was led by the aforementioned Marshall, Welage, Jones and Scruggs who carried the offense. The quartet got into double figures, with Marshall leading with 19 points. Welage had 17 and was 5-for-8 from the 3-point arc. Jones had 13 points and went 5-for-6 from the field, while Scruggs had 11 on a 4-for-10 mark from the field.
Paul Reed and Jaylen Butz both stepped up for the Blue Demons even if they did fall. Reed and Butz had 17 and 16 points respectively, and did so by shooting a combined 9-for-15 from the field. Eli Cain had 14 points on 5-for-12 and Max Strus racked up 10 on 3-for-9.
Despite their nonconference struggles, Xavier was able to scoop up a huge win to start off league play. The Blue Demons will have their home conference opener on Wednesday when Myles Powell and the Seton Hall Pirates come to town. Seton Hall, of course, will open their conference season later against the St. John’s Red Storm, so they’ll have a result in hand prior to this matchup.
DePaul, meanwhile, falls into “more of the same” as they start off 0-1 yet again in Big East play. Next for them? A trip to the Finneran Pavilion to take on the Villanova Wildcats.