This was not an eight point game. I’m not going to discuss the last two minutes when someone went into the options and turned fouls off, because they ended up not mattering anyway. All that happened prior to that was the Musketeers gutting out a tough road win in conference and taking another huge step toward the NCAA tournament.
And this was a tough win. Ignore anyone who tells you that DePaul isn’t a good team. They beat Iowa, Texas Tech, Minnesota, and Butler. The Blue Demons are are 65th in the KenPom and 59th in the NET. This was a Quadrant One win on the road in conference. DePaul has more Q1 wins to their name than the AAC. This was a big win.
It started with the potential to be a big win in terms of margin, too, before Xavier remembered that they can’t shoot. Paul Scruggs (13/7/1) was excellent when freed from the shackles of running the offense by Quentin Goodin (12/1/3) who played 25 very good minutes of his own. KyKy Tandy (12/2/2) was also in on the shooting that got Xavier off to a 7-11 start from deep before they went 1-14 to close things out.
The lead hit 17 and Xavier held it there for most of the first half and led by 19 at the half. Coming out of the break DePaul started feeding Jalen Coleman-Lands behind the arc. He keyed an 8-0 that pulled DePaul back to within 11 and had Wintrust Arena jumping. Travis Steele fairly, and more frequently unfairly, maligned for not always pulling the right strings did this time by sending on Bryce Moore (1/1/3). Moore’s offensive line hardly reflects how instrumental he was in stemming the tide. Coleman-Lands suddenly found that every move he made came free with a Bryce Moore. Moore harried him completely out of rhythm and allowed Xavier to get things back going on offense.
That offense was bad today and shot .362/.320/.708 to score .94 points per possession. The free throw shooting resurgence was led by Tyrique Jones (12/18/2) who was 8-12 from the line despite struggling from the floor. Jones was relentless on the glass all night long and beat Paul Reed into a submission that Reed’s foul aided final line won’t reflect. That was actually the story of the game. One team a bit tougher than a tough opponent and a final that doesn’t really reflect the game. That won’t matter when Xavier lands back in Cincinnati having taken another step toward saving their season.