It is fair to say that pretty much every fear that Xavier fans would have had coming in to the DePaul game came true last night. Xavier was sloppy, occasionally disinterested, and not terribly inclined to play defense for long stretches of the game. Despite that, Xavier won by 11. Such is the benefit of playing DePaul.
None of those issues are to say that the Musketeers were ever in great danger of losing the game. Ken Pomeroy’s algorithm had Xavier with a 95% chance of victory when the game started. That number dipped as low as 92%, but no lower. The simple fact is that the Blue Demons got Xavier’s worst effort since the Crosstown Shootout and still managed to do very little with it. Xavier turned the ball over 19 times and shot 12-18 from the line, but DePaul never capitalized.
In the first half the Musketeers came out looking ready to finish a game off early. When Kaiser Gates (3/10/1) knocked down a three with 13 minutes left in the half, X was up eight and looking like they would roll away. Instead, five minutes later, the Blue Demons were back within two. In the next 8:44 of game time after that three, Xavier scored a grand total of five points. At the 4:20 mark, the game was finally back even and camera shot of Xavier’s coaches showed Luke Murray pinching the bridge of his nose, Travis Steele looking disgusting, and Coach Mack staring at the ground. Obviously they leapt to action, but their reactions to the steal and layup to knot things up showed that they were well aware that DePaul shouldn’t have been hanging around.
And Xavier set about making sure they finished them off before the half. In the last two and a half minutes of the first period, RaShid Gaston (14/5/1) scored nine points including an and one to cap the half. Xavier went into the locker room back up by seven and surely ready to put away the worst team in the Big East. Less than two minutes into the second, a thunderous Gaston dunk put the Musketeers up ten for the first time all game. Done and dusted, right? No. Five minutes later, it was once again a four point game as Xavier started a frustrating pattern of pulling ahead, easing off the gas, and letting DePaul back in the game.
After two free throws from Tyrique Jones (8/4/0) at the ten minute mark, Xavier was up 13. DePaul fought that lead back down into the single digits on multiple occasions because the Musketeers just couldn’t kill the game, but the outcome never really seemed a question. In the last ten minutes, X grabbed six offensive rebounds to continue a game long domination that saw DePaul grab only 22 boards all night. This game was slow, it was ugly, and it wasn’t well played but, at the end of 40 minutes, Xavier walked away with another win.