MUSKIES START WELL!! FINISH EVEN BETTER!! WIN AT DePAUL 74-65!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 12/29/2018

Xavier got the job done Saturday afternoon in Chicago-bagging their first road win after ugly stumbles at UC and Mizzou and posting a BIG EAST opener "W" by taking out DePaul on their home floor 74-65. X came out focused and firing-leading 13-3 at the first media time-out. The Muskies blanked the Blue Demons on their first 6 possessions. That's 6 straight stops or 2 kills in Xavier hoops nomenclature. X knocked down some early threes and Quentin Gooden locked up DU top scorer Max Strus. X led 19-11 9 minutes in and seemed clearly the better team. Turnovers were low. Defense remained sticky.

The Muskies sort of fell in love with the three ball though and forgot to look inside. They began the half making 3 of 5 from deep, but then degenerated to 2 of 9.

When Xavier got running off DePaul live ball turnovers, they scored well in transition. Ryan Welage drained 2 threes off the secondary fast break. Xavier led 38-32 at the half thanks to timely outside shooting-deadly 7-10 shooting around the rim and strong targeted defense.

Gooden limited Strus's touches. Second scoring option Eli Cain was well marked by Paul Scruggs and Naji Marshall. Marshall started coming off a bout of back spasms and played a terrific all court game.

Tyrique Jones came off the bench after being cleared out of concussion protocol. Jones had hardly practiced, but had a huge impact on the positive outcome.

The real injury story resided on the DePaul bench. Illinois Transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands missed his third straight game with a broken bone in his left hand. He would have given DU another scoring option. X limited the two DePaul "Knowns" Strus and Cain. Coleman-Lands would have had some open looks. DU followed form.

Their somewhat suspect bench sort of led to their late collapse. Late meltdowns cost DePaul losses at Northwestern and home to Boston College and in their BIG EAST Opener against Xavier also.

SECOND HALF ROLLER COASTER:

Both teams struggled to score right after halftime. Turnovers-fouls-missed shots were the rule. DePaul needed the win to convince themselves and their fan base that this year they can contend in the BIG EAST. Xavier wanted to exorcise the road demons after laying eggs at UC and Missouri.

DU got to the foul line and finally tied the game at 50-50 with 7:59 left outscoring XU 18 to 12 over a halting-painful 12 minute stretch. Over the next 2 plus minutes the Demons attacked primarily with Eli Cain and built a 61-55 lead. But Max Strus became a passenger because of foul trouble.

Naji Matshall took over as the point forward with PG Gooden hamstrung by 4 fouls and Xavier went zone defense. Naji drove to the basket scrambling the DU defense. Welage, Scruggs and Marshall hit open threes off kick-out passes. Tyrique Jones dominated the glass-blocked shots and pulled off a gorgeous steal-dunk to salt the game away at 70-63 with 42 seconds left.

It all added up to a 19-4 Muskie run over the last five minutes. Xavier 74 DePaul 65 pronto from 6 down to 9 up a 15 point swing!! That's classic winning time spurtability!!

The right defensive call merged with attacking inside-out slick passing offense and dead eye FT shooting!! The numbers look nice. Xavier limited DePaul to 65 points(15 below their average) and just 0.97 points/possession. X shared the ball(16 assists on 23 FGs).

Gooden did not shoot well, but dished out 8 assists and held Strus to 10 points(half his average)and kept him off the glass and off the foul line. Q played all 40 minutes.

Marshall was huge!!! with 19 points-14 rebounds and 4 assists. He ran the offense during the late surge-hit the floor frequently and guarded well. Welage earned his keep from deep(5-8 from three) 17 points-3 rebounds plus he tries defensively.

Jones was a horse despite the limited practice time(23 minutes-13 points-4 rebounds-2 blocks-3 steals).

Xavier is now 9-5 and 1-0 in the BIG EAST tied with Seton Hall. The Pirates trailed St Johns almost the entire game Saturday evening in Newark. The Johnnies led 45-36 at the half and 69-59+10 with just 6:32 left. St Johns clung to a 74-73 lead in the final minute and missed two FT front ends. Seton Hall won it with a three pointer from Sophomore substitute guard Shavar Reynolds at the buzzer 76-74.

St Johns is now 12-1. 10-3 Seton Hall plays Xavier Wednesday night at Cintas(6:30 Tip-FS1).




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