NEW YORK -- New York City- Following an animated contest between St. John’s and Georgetown, Xavier faced DePaul in the Big East Tournament’s opening round. The Musketeers, riding a good start of the second half, pulled away to post a 75-64 victory over the Blue Demons at Madison Square Garden. Xavier will face Butler in the quarterfinals Thursday.
First five possessions:
DePaul: Missed free throws, field goal, missed field goal, missed field goal, missed field goal
Xavier: Missed field goal, missed field goal, foul, field goal, missed field goal
The 2-2 tie at the 16:21 mark of the first half suggested a deliberate pace and a slow offensive display to start.
First half observations: Both teams struggled in the half court. DePaul was able to get an occasional run out off a turnover, but for the most part, both teams had a rough go of it offensively. DePaul went man-to-man on defense, while Xavier cycled between man and zone. The Musketeers’ moment came at the buzzer, as J.P. Macura drained an NBA-range three to cut the Blue Demon lead to one at the break.
Halftime: DePaul 31 Xavier 30
Possessions: DePaul 32, Xavier 31
Offensive efficiency: DePaul 97, Xavier 97
Second half observations: The first four minutes of the second half saw a few threes to go with ball movement resulting in high percentage finishes in the lane, and a Xavier team that came out for the second half totally different. The Musketeers won the first four minutes by a score of 12-5 to open a six-point lead. By contrast, they took about ten minutes of the first half to post a dozen points.
Maybe it was a rejuvenated start, but Xavier ran their sets sharper with crisper cuts and passes. DePaul trailed by nine with just under 13 minutes to go, not an insurmountable deficit, but it does bear significance given the type of game it was. Simply, DePaul found points hard to come by.
In the end, the efficiency bears out the type of night DePaul had on offense. The subpar 97 might have been lower if not for a turnover rate under 20 percent and a good offensive rebounding mark. From the field, Dave Leitao’s Blue Demons struggled.
Possessions: DePaul 69, Xavier 71
Offensive efficiency: DePaul 93, Xavier 106
Effective field goal percentage: DePaul 43, Xavier 54
Free throw rate: DePaul 16, Xavier 19
Offensive rebound percentage: DePaul 41, Xavier 31
Turnover rate: DePaul 16, Xavier 14
Leading scorers and effectiveness factors:
DePaul: Billy Garrett, Jr., 16 points (EF 15)
Xavier: Trevon Bluiett, 17 points (EF 27)
What Xavier did well: Shoot well in the second half. After opening the first 20 minutes shooting at 43 percent, Chris Mack’s group found their range, hitting 17-of-31 in the decisive final half.
What DePaul did well: Rebound. The Blue Demons were dominant in offensive rebound percentage and grabbed 15 off the offensive glass to the eight of Xavier.
NOTES: Billy Garrett, Jr.’s effectiveness factor was hindered by a game-high five turnovers. Bluiett led all rebounders from his guard position with seven. J.P. Macura added 13 for Xavier with a game-high six assists against only two turnovers.
Ball control index: Xavier 1.91, DePaul 1.31
DePaul ended the season at 9-23, with just two wins coming after the first of the year. Xavier is now 20-12, with two straight wins following a six-game slide. Skeptics could point out those two victories were both at the expense of DePaul. At any rate, they were much-needed wins and a very stern test awaits in the form of Butler in the next round.
Postgame Quotes (courtesy of ASAP Sports)