This game was decided in a 7:36 stretch that began with 4:10 left in the first and straddled the half. Xavier held DePaul to 1-9/0-5/1-2 shooting and forced 7 turnovers in ripping off a 27-3 run to turn the game from a contest in which DePaul led to a formality in terms of running out the clock. Xavier allowed zero offensive rebounds during that stretch and just four empty possessions themselves. This was a better team flexing its muscle and destroying an opponent that had been hanging with it.
Xavier's leading scorer led the team in scoring tonight; Trevon only had 2 at the half but finished the game with 15/6/2 with a steal and a block on 6-10/0-2/3-3 shooting. Tre's footwork and release were borderline pornographic today as he killed DePaul with an array of mid-range jump shots in the second half. On nights when his three isn't dropping, that little fadeaway jumper he has is still cash. He is developing into a second-half player, and he certainly was today.
The name on everyone's lips tonight is going to be Larry Austin, Jr. If it isn't, it should be. After lingering near the edge of the depth chart since Ed's return, he was called upon for 18 minutes today and responded with 12/5/4 on 4-5/0-0/4-6 shooting. He only turned the ball over once, and his one steal doesn't accurately reflect how disruptive he was on defense. This was Peak Larry, and his effort helped turn the game for X.
Larry led a bench mob that was once again pivotal for Xavier. The reserves - including JP and Big Game James, who are basically just the 6th and 7th starters - outscored DePaul's bench to the tune of 42-12. Heck, DePaul's starters only outscored Xavier's bench by 11. Not only does the bench allow Xavier to run fresh legs out there, but they give the team several different looks to employ in searching for the winning matchup. That kind of depth and versatility makes it hard not to be excited about March.
Speaking of things this team does well, Xavier also had a huge edge on the glass today despite DePaul sending four or five dudes to the offensive boards for most of the second half. Xavier had a 41.2% to 21.8% edge in OReb% and the concomitant 78.2% to 58.8% advantage on the defensive end of things. This led to an 18-8 gap in second-chance points. Couple that with a 21-12 advantage in points off of turnovers and Xavier outscored DePaul by 19 just by winning the free possession battle.
Jalen Reynolds had 10/6/2 on 2-6/0-0/6-7 shooting, but his biggest moment of the game was when DePaul's hockey goon/reserve forward Joe Hanel tried to ride him into the basket and then give him an earful of garbage late in the first half while Xavier was making a run. Rather than reciprocate, Jalen - with a little help from his friends - left the scene while Hanel collected the technical foul he had earned. Four free throws later, Xavier was showing the Blue Demons a clean pair of heels.
The other half of the first-half bench combo with LAJ was JP Macura. He dropped 10 before the break on his way to 12/2/2 on 3-8/1-3/5-5 shooting. He wasn't especially efficient as a shooter, but he was at his usual level of irritating opponents, creating havoc on the defensive end, and using his savvy to make plays. Maybe nobody other than Jalen gets less protection from the refs for Xavier, but JP was drawing contact so well that he often left them no choice but to send him to the line.
Myles was determined to bomb X back into the game early, hitting a couple of big threes in the first half before deferring to hotter hands later on. He ended the game with a shooting line of 3-7/2-6/2-2 on his way to 10/3/2 with a steal and two turnovers. All in all it was an understated 27 minutes for Xavier's bald hero.
The win moves Xavier to 19-2 on the year and 7-2 in conference play. The Muskies will look to pick up their 20th win in the midweek fixture, when they host St. John's. Stay tuned for more coverage.