For the first ten minutes of Tuesday’s 67-59 win over DePaul (13-10, 1-9), one might have confused this year’s Xavier (15-8, 4-6) team to one of Villanova’s recent championship teams.
While they’ve been better of late, the Musketeers entered the game an even 300th nationally in three-point percentage as outside shooting (along with shooting from the free-throw line) has been their biggest weakness. Yet Xavier hit its seventh three against DePaul just more ten minutes into the game, capping off a flurry that built up a 29-12 advantage. Xavier would tighten up the defense the rest of half, not surrendering a basket the final 8:36 of the first half to go into the break up 35-16.
In many ways, Xavier’s win against DePaul resembled Saturday’s upset of No. 10 Seton Hall. In each game, the Musketeers built a massive early lead that was whittled down to a reasonable total, though neither the Pirates nor the Blue Demons really threatened to take the game. Against DePaul, Xavier spent much of the second half up by more than double-digits but some late turnovers against the press allowed the Blue Demons to trim the lead the six with 38 seconds left. The Musketeers, the Big East’s worst free-throw shooting team, hit most of their free throws down the stretch (17-24 for 70.8%) to pull out the 67-59 win.
Despite the relatively dominating performance for the Musketeers, the did fall back to earth after the hot start. Xavier missed its final ten three-point attempts (including all seven attempted in the second half) and committed sixteen turnovers, including four in the final three minutes. DePaul shot just 23-67 (34.8%) from the field and went 5-10 (50%) from the foul line.
Paul Scruggs led Xavier with 13 points while Tyrique Jones, Kyky Tandy, and Quentin Goodin each tallied 12. Jones recorded a season-high 18 rebounds, good for his 15th double-double of the season and his fifth straight.
The Blue Demons were led by Paul Reed who scored 18, grabbed nine rebounds, and had seven steals. Reed finished one board short of recording his 15th double-double of the season to keep pace with Jones. Jalen Coleman-Lands scored 17 points while Charlie Moore added 10 for DePaul.
Xavier entered the second half of the conference schedule having played the toughest first-half in the Big East, the schedule should be lighter the rest of the way as the Musketeers look to continue the nation’s longest streak of finishing .500 or better in conference play. The Musketeers will look to keep momentum when they host Providence Saturday night at 8 p.m. That game will be televised on FS1.
DePaul looks to rekindle the fire they had in the non-conference schedule, though the Blue Demons hopes of a winning conference record (and perhaps their first Tournament bid since 2004) are dashed. The Blue Demons will look to stop their slide Saturday at noon EST when they travel to Georgetown. You can watch that one on FSN.