Xavier took it to the Blue Demons, tying the season series at 1-1 after previous defeat
By Daniel Kelly, Staff Writer
#16 Xavier won 82-68 over DePaul on Saturday in a game that the Musketeers controlled from the beginning. After losing to DePaul in mid-January, Xavier came into this game as the heavy favorite and rose to that standard. A 12-2 run for DePaul to end the game made the final score look closer than the game felt.
Every Musketeer starter scored in double digits in a game where the bench has been depleted by injuries. With forward Zach Freemantle still hurt and guard Desmond Claude missing his second game due to illness, the starters carried the scoring load more than usual.
Jack Nunge led the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Adam Kunkel chipped in 16 points and eight assists coming in large part from an efficient day from the three-point line. Jerome Hunter tied his season high with 15 points and added a dunk with 10 minutes left that animated the Cintas faithful.
A significant storyline from this game is the improved defensive performance from the Musketeers. The team has been mostly led by a prolific offense, but on Saturday, the defense smothered some extremely talented DePaul scorers.
In the first matchup between these teams, DePaul guard Umoja Gibson scored 22 points and was the driving force behind DePaul’s upset win. In his pre-game press conference, Miller had high praise for the guard by saying that he would put Gibson “up against any college point guard in America”. This time, though, Gibson was held under 10 points until the final three minutes when the game had already been decided.
Xavier dominated the glass by collecting 10 more offensive rebounds than the Blue Devils and got 19 points off of those second chances. The Musketeers also took better care of the ball by limiting turnovers and applying pressure to force the Blue Devils into making mistakes.
DePaul has struggled for most of the season and currently owns a 9-18 record that puts them in the bottom tier of the Big East. Though their last win was the upset over Xavier, they have given a scare to some strong Big East teams.
The win brings Xavier’s season record to 20-7 overall. This is the first time the Musketeers reached 20 wins in the regular season since 2018. The team is tied for second in the Big East with just four regular season games left.
Before the game on Saturday, the NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Committee released a snapshot of its top 16 teams in college basketball. This offers a sneak peak of where many of the top ranked teams in the country fall in the eyes of the group that will create the tournament bracket for March Madness. Xavier clocked in at #16.
The Musketeers have a quick turnaround to play a home game Tuesday against Villanova.
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