There was a moment at which this game felt like it might be a nightmare for Xavier. After the Muskies came out hot at home and led 12-4 after a Colby Jones three, but the media timeout broke the momentum. Out of the commercials - your next line is free! - the Muskies weren’t able to keep up the hot start. The loathsome Da’Sean Nelson scored and converted a free throw, then DePaul followed consecutive empty Xavier possessions with made threes. In 1:27 after the break, X had given up a 9-0 run and gone from up 8 to down 1.
You could be forgiven for feeling like you had seen this one before, especially after Xavier missed again on their next trip.
The game pivoted in less than a minute. DePaul went 0-1 with 2 turnovers in their next three possessions, and Souley and Kunk went a combined 3-3 from three in the ensuing trips down the court to restore Xavier’s lead and the momentum. Down 1 to up 8 took 55 seconds.
It was an absolute barrage from there. DePaul scored 13 points in the first 6:12 of the half and 14 in the next 13:48. Meanwhile, Xavier was relentless. Despite DePaul trying to slow the momentum with a variety of defensive looks, Xavier was irrepressible. They shot 8-17 from deep in the first half and dished 11 first-half assists and reeled off 37 points in the last 13 minutes to turn the game into a laugher at the half.
It was the exact opposite coming out of the break. Despite a monster Jack Nunge dunk out of the interval, the team as a whole made just 1 of their first 13 shots of the second half. During that time, DePaul cut it from 49-27 to 51-32 as Xavier’s defense held solid while the offense warmed up. Every time DePaul flirted with making it interesting, the Muskies had an answer to push the lead back to the 20s. Only when the walk-ons checked in could the Blue Demons go on a run. By that time, the only thing in doubt was the final score.
Let’s take some stuff away from this...
Jerome Hunter has found his niche
Hunter had 15 and 9 on 7-12 shooting, and his only three-point attempt was an end-of-clock scud that caught only glass. DePaul has some bigger dudes that protect the rim well, and Hunter showed off an impressive array of post moves and mid-range shots to go right at them. I know we’ve talked this to death, but with Freemantle being out, Xavier needed Hunter to be able to get something on plays called for him in addition to clean up duty on offensive boards. He has stepped into that gap and performed admirably.
Kyky is hexed
With a very thin bench and minutes to spare, Kyky had a chance to fight his way into the rotation. Instead he has struggled to find his feet, and he walked off early in the first half with an injury that was clearly still bothering him in the second half. Nobody but a fool would question the kid’s commitment, but he has been consistently struck by bad luck during his time at Xavier.
DePaul deserves your derision
We’ve talked plenty about why we don’t like Tony Stubblefield, but Da’Sean Nelson decided to attempt to add injury to insult today. With the game already clearly gone in the first half, he got outjumped by Jack Nunge on the glass. As the Xavier big was reeling in the board, he and Nelson ended up more or less back to back. Nelson grabbed Nunge’s left arm, pivoted, and basically executed a judo throw to drag Nunge over his body and onto the floor. After a brief review, the officials called a flagrant 1. On another, more just day, it would have been the ejection that Byron and Joe were arguing for on the radio broadcast.