Marshall drops 22 points in loss to Blue Demons

Newswire photo by Desmond Fischer | Sophomore forward Naji Marshall scored a team-high 22 points against DePaul last Saturday while also grabbing four boards and distributing four assists. He went 2 of 3 from distance and 6 of 7 on free throws.

Xavier was in a position to buck a five-game losing streak at home last Saturday against DePaul. However, a late surge by the Blue Demons resulted in a sixth straight loss for the Musketeers.

The defeat marked the second time that Xavier fell to DePaul since both teams began to compete in the Big East Conference.

DePaul capitalized on a multitude of Xavier second-half turnovers, which resulted in the Musketeers’ ceding the lead.

“I thought we did have a lot of carryover from practice as far as defense went. (It was) probably our best defensive effort we’ve had in Big East play so far,” head coach Travis Steele said. “It’s hard to win any games at this level when you turn the ball over … They scored 15 points off our turnovers.”

A slow developing start to the game resulted in only four points scored by the first media timeout.With 11:48 remaining in the first half, the game was tied at five points apiece.

The Musketeers shot just 38 percent from the floor and 23 percent from beyond the arc in the first half.

However, Xavier upped its shooting percentage to 40 percent for the game.

Sophomore forward Naji Marshall was a consistent source of offense in the first half, registering 16 points, three rebounds and three assists. He finished with a team-high 22 points and also collected four rebounds and had as many assists.

Marshall, whose game typically resides in driving hard to the basket, shot the ball well from long range, going 2 of 3 on three-point shots throughout the game. Even so, he exceled at attacking the rim and making tough shots.

Xavier went on a mini 6-0 run and closed out the half converting its final three shots to claim a slight one-point edge at the break.

Early in the second half, sophomore guard Paul Scruggs made a couple of tough shots from the outside. He contributed in nearly every aspect of the game with 13 points and five rebounds, along with three assists.

“We had a couple turnovers in a row, and that’s what got them going,” Scruggs said about DePaul’s comeback. “Our guys played hard, and that’s all you can ever ask for.”

Xavier had a very positive showing defensively against the Blue Demons’ top scorer, Max Strus, who averages 17 points per game.

The Musketeers limited his output to 15 points and stifled him to shoot a mere 6 of 20 from the field and 1 of 9 from three-point range.

“I thought we made him earn his points,” Steele said. “He’s a really good player. They run probably 90 percent of their set plays for him specifically … I thought Quentin, Naji (and) Paul did a good job for the most part making it tough on him.”

A two-minute scoring drought allowed DePaul to tie the score at 57 with 3:28 left in the game.

Six turnovers in the last six minutes of the game gave way to a 16-2 run for the Blue Demons, which put them up by eight points with 1:22 remaining. This effectively sealed the Musketeers’ fate.

Xavier is at an important juncture in the season. Amidst a losing skid, the Musketeers are nearing their final stretch games before the end of the regular season in a conference where one win can vault them forward multiple spots in the standings.

Xavier isn’t out of the fight yet by any means. Each team in the Big East is guaranteed a spot in the conference tournament.

Regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, the Musketeers will still have an opportunity to compete for the Big East title next month at Madison Square Garden.

By: Luke Feliciano | Sports Editor