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Xavier Slays the DePaul Blue Demons 74-65

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier was down five with five minutes left, but responded with a 19-4 run to get a win in their first Big East game of the season.

Xavier started the game strong, jumping out to a 7-0 lead before going up 13-3 with 14:52 left in the first half. They held DePaul to 1-6, 16.7%, from the field while they shot 4-7, 57.1% from the field.

After a couple bad possessions out the timeout, a Ryan Welage three pushed Xavier’s lead back to double-digits at 16-5. However, DePaul managed to bring it back under 10, trailing only 19-11 with 11:14 left in the first half. Foul trouble plagued the Musketeers, as they had already committed six fouls at that point.

DePaul continued to cut into the lead, and only trailed 25-22 before a quick 5-0 run by Xavier gave them an eight point cushion, 30-22. A three by DePaul’s Max Strus cut it to 30-25 with 5:48 left in the first half.

Things stayed even until halftime, as Xavier led 38-32 heading into the break. The scoring was balanced for Xavier in the first half, as six players had at least four points. Welage led the team with nine points off of three, three-point shots.

Paul Scruggs and Quentin Goodin had eight and seven points respectively.

Xavier did a good job of limiting Strus and Eli Cain, DePaul’s top scorers, in the first half to a combined 10 points on a combined 3-9, 33.3%, shooting.

The ball movement from the Detroit-Mercy game, in which Xavier had 20 assists on 22 field goals, carried over in the first half, with 10 assists on 13 field goals.

DePaul opened the second half stronger than Xavier did, as they cut the Xavier lead to four, 43-39, with 15:42 left in the game. The game continued to remain close, as Xavier only led 48-45 with 11:44 remaining in the game.

The ball game was tied 50-50 with 7:59 remaining, and the intensity had picked up heavily for both teams. DePaul siezed the momentum, and led 61-55 with 5:12 left in the game. Xavier went ice cold from the field during this stretch, missing six of seven shots.

Xavier finally snapped the cold streak with a Welage three, which brought the Musketeers back within one, as they only trailed 61-60 with 4:08 left in the game. A Naji Marshall three and a Tyrique Jones lay-in put Xavier up 65-61.

The Musketeers led 65-63 with 2:01 left. They then led 70-63 with 43.6 seconds left. In all, a 19-4 scoring run for Xavier helped them avoid a really bad loss to start the conference slate, as Xavier defeated the Blue Demons 74-65.

Marshall led the team with 19 points and 14 rebounds after missing the last game due to injury, while also chipping in four assists and a steal. Welage finished with 17 points, which came on five three-pointers and two free throws, and hit several timely baskets.

Jones, who also missed the last game due to injury, finished with 13 points, four rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Scruggs also finished in double-figures, scoring 11 points.

Xavier was able to keep Strus down today, as the Big East’s third leading scorer at 19.7 points per game, only scored 10 on eight shots.

The Musketeer’s poise down the stretch was impressive. They were down five with five minutes to play, and responded with the aforementioned 19-4 run. Marshall, Jones, and Welage all came up big during the run, making tough shots and keeping DePaul from getting good shots.

Xavier resumes Big East play on Wednesday, Jan. 2nd against Seton Hall at home. Tip off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.