Xavier nets season-best 12 3-pointers and led for all but 24 seconds in game
Xavier had a prime opportunity to recoup from a rough offensive performance last Saturday against Villanova when facing the Big East’s last-place team, DePaul, on Tuesday night.
The Musketeers accomplished and then some, with flashy yet confident play. Their scorching start from beyond the arc (10-19 in the first half, 48% overall), propelled them to a runaway 78-67 victory.
“After the Villanova loss, we took practice very seriously,” junior forward Naji Marshall said. “Guys got in the gym, worked on their jump shots, worked on their game, watched film. (We were) really locked in the last two days and it showed on the court. We gotta keep that going.”
Just about everyone had the hot hand Tuesday night as the Musketeers touted their best shooting performance from distance. The Musketeers’ 12 3-pointers marked a new season high.
Xavier played exceptional in transition with 16 fast break points. The Musketeers forced the issue by finding the outlet man in a snap and attacking the basket.
“We gotta get some easy baskets,” Steele said. “You gotta find a way to get two, four, six, eight points, easy points, easy buckets – whether it’s on the glass, in transition. That’s the difference between winning and losing … If we get a stop, we’re going, we’re running.”
Early in the second half, the Musketeers once 13-point lead nearly evaporated with the Blue Demons drawing as close as one possession to tying the game.
However, the Musketeers hung onto the lead and stepped on the gas — taking advantage of haphazard offensive play from DePaul –—who had a total of 22 turnovers.
Steele emphasized that Xavier could have done a better job controlling the glass as the Musketeers were outrebounded 40-25.
“We can’t get bullied on the glass. We’re not going down that way,” Steele said. “The rebounding war is really upsetting … That’s not good enough and we gotta do better.”
Two of Xavier’s freshmen, guard KyKy Tandy and forward Zach Freemantle each scored in double digits. Tandy showcased his driving skills with 10 points while Freemantle hovered around the paint for 11 points.
Marshall, the team’s leading scorer, netted a team-high 23 points. He also had six rebounds and distributed six assists.
Xavier only trailed for 24 seconds throughout the game and learned from its pitfalls from the last meeting with DePaul when it had some troubles handling the Blue Demons’ press.
“I thought we got off to a good start tonight,” Steele said. “Our defense will be the key to that … I thought we finished the game the right way. We had a little more poise against their press (and) inbounding the ball.”
The Musketeers now find themselves on a two-game road trip in the final leg of the regular season.
Every win will be crucial not only for postseason hopes but more immediately for a more favorable seeding for the Big East Tournament in a few weeks.