No. 20 Xavier aims to extend Big East success vs. DePaul
No. 20 Xavier boasted separate win streaks of four and six games during nonconference play but has alternated wins and losses through its first five Big East contests.
Saturday’s 80-73 home victory against Creighton continued the trend for the Musketeers. Now coach Travis Steele hopes the game serves as a catalyst for that elusive conference win streak when the team visits DePaul on Wednesday night.
“Not that we were perfect (Saturday), but I thought our effort was great,” Steele said.
Xavier (13-3, 3-2 Big East) outscored Creighton 51-39 after the break, benefiting from a number of second-half surges.
Colby Jones provided the biggest spurt, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the second half on 5-for-6 shooting. Jones, who led six Musketeers in double figures, added nine rebounds.
“I thought he was on balance,” Steele said. “I thought he was composed. I thought he played at his own pace, his own speed. And it resulted in him being very efficient.”
Paul Scruggs chipped in 13 points. The Xavier frontcourt also shined, as Zach Freemantle notched a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Jack Nunge had 12 points and six boards.
Freemantle and Nunge provided size and stability on both ends of the floor in a game that saw the Musketeers force 21 turnovers.
“It’s something we can really take advantage of,” Nunge said. “Whether it’s offensively or defensively, you rebound the ball really well, and then we can look high or low, or if one of us has a mismatch, we can look inside and get it to one of us.”
DePaul (10-6, 1-5) snapped a five-game skid to open league play with Thursday’s 96-92 win against visiting Seton Hall, which was then No. 20 in the AP poll.
Jalen Terry went 11-for-13 from the free throw line, including several key makes down the stretch, to score a career-best 28 points for the Blue Demons.
“At practice, coach made us shoot 50 free throws,” Terry said. “I shot 50 for 50. The way you practice translates to the game.”
David Jones added 24 points and eight rebounds, while conference leading scorer Javon Freeman-Liberty had 12 points before aggravating a groin injury early in the second half. His status for Wednesday’s game is uncertain.
Although Freeman-Liberty logged just 23 minutes against Seton Hall, the Blue Demons remained steady. DePaul never trailed and led for 39:42.
“I’m proud of the team and the resilience that they showed,” Blue Demons coach Tony Stubblefield said. “Obviously, we’ve been hit with some adversity. Our guys have had the stick-to-it-tiveness, where they stuck together as a team, stayed positive and just continued to try to get better. That’s something we’ve been preaching to these young men.”
Xavier has won 13 of 16 meetings with DePaul. The Blue Demons hold the most recent bragging rights, however, edging the Musketeers 71-67 in Big East Tournament play on March 11, 2020.
–Field Level Media