The DePaul Blue Demons may have come into this game 0-4 in the conference, but they had played tough in all four of those games. No blowouts, a couple games they could have won, and a lot of building blocks for Dave Leitao. Those games came against good teams, but not against the class of the conference. The Demons ran into the buzzsaw that is Xavier right now last night, and this one they didn't escape from quite so unscathed.
The story of this game is going to be Trevon Bluiett (24/6/4), and rightfully so. Trevon buried his first four three point attempts and got Xavier's offense rolling after a sluggish start. The fact that he had 19 at the half and finished with 24 speaks more to his ability to distribute the ball as the defense reacted than anything else. Bluiett's shooting numbers had begun to dip recently, but last night he was both aggressive and efficient with his shot. That got the offense going, and when Jalen Reynolds (6/7/1) slammed the ball home with eight minutes to play, Xavier led by 12.
Then, the St. John's game started to play out again. With 2:48 to play in the half, Xavier only led by three. To pull the game back close the Blue Demons had capitalized on Xavier turnovers and knocked down two open threes. If that sounds familiar, it should. The game stayed close for another minute before the Musketeers punched back. A 10-3 to end the half put the home team back up 10 and delivered the quick and telling response that was never coming last week in New York. Xavier attacked DePaul rather than sit back and try to absorb the pressure and were rewarded with 13 points of turnovers, two of which came in the definitive spurt.
That still left 20 minutes to play, but the Musketeers had a second half hero all cued up as well. JP Macura (13/4/2) had only been in double digits twice since scoring 11 against Dayton, but he was a very efficient 5-6 from the floor last night. More importantly, JP knocked down a three pointer after himself having been in a prolonged shooting slump. Rather than try to continue to gun himself out of it, Macura used the threat of his jumper to free himself for a wide array of unconventional finishes near the basket. The savvy the kid has and his ability to position his body perfectly for what he needs to do are something to watch when he is rolling.
And with JP rolling, Xavier was on its way. Kaiser Gates (11/4/0) chipped in eight second half points and looked extremely confident knocking down two three pointers. Myles Davis (14/2/7) had seven assists but turned the ball over only one time. Myles also went 4-8 from the floor and 3-5 from behind the arc. The Musketeers went 12-26 as Coach Mack identified the same defensive deficiencies we pointed out in the preview and Xavier bombed away. By the time the walk-ons came off the bench (shoot the ball, guys) DePaul had taked their worst conference beating of the year and the Musketeers were on the way to 15-1. With Edmond Sumner back in practice today, the news just keeps getting better.
Water Cooler Takes:
Water Cooler Takes are a new feature in our recaps. We'll take a few points from the game and throw out some quick opinion on them. What we want back is your opinion on the things that are the talking points for Xavier right now.
- Trevon may not be out of that shooting dip: Tre was 4-4 from behind the arc to start the game, 1-7 after that. Yes, this looking for an issue where one may not exist, but the somewhat somnolent finish after that scorching start is still a warning sign. Ignore anyone who tells you otherwise, Bluiett has hit a shooting wall like he did last year. Whether last night was a step out of that or just a blip of good form remains to be seen.
- Something is going on with Jalen Reynolds: Just one game after Jalen earned some extra time to ponder life from the best seats in the house, he was once again the recipient of attention he probably didn't want from the Xavier coaching staff. Jalen is undoubtedly massively talented, but he's once again failing to impose himself on games consistently.
- Sean O'Mara is the next Jason Love: Xavier has long recruited guys who spend some time looking down at the rim. Starting with James Posey and moving through Derrick Brown, Jamel McLean, Travis Taylor, and now Jalems Farrnolds, the Musketeers have coveted athletic post players. Sean O'Mara looks like vintage film compared to thoe guys, but his back to the basket game and ability to use his body to score are paying dividends already. Last night he had a very quiet 9/3/1.
- Does Trevon break out today? Ignoring hot takeish the opinion expressed above for a moment, yes, he did. Trevon shot well when the team needed it and finished 5-11 from deep. Maybe it was the new haircut or maybe it was just fixing a hitch somewhere in his stroke, but he poured in the points last night.
- Which Xavier shows up? The Xavier that hammered Butler down the stretch was in evidence again last night. From the 10-3 to close the first half to going 12-14 from the line in the second half, Xavier's execution when it mattered was on an entirely different level than against St. John's. As poorly as that game against the Red Storm went it's sometimes hard to remember that Xavier did win it by eight on the road.
- Wherefore art thou, Larry Austin? One shot, two rebounds, three assists, and no turnovers in 16 minutes. That's an offensive efficiency rating of 129 and just about the perfect game from LAJ.