Xavier overcomes slow start to blow out DePaul

ROSEMONT — A quick start and big-time offensive performances from junior center Tommy Hamilton and junior guard Billy Garret Jr. were not enough for DePaul on Saturday, as the Blue Demons fell 86-65 to No. 7 Xavier at Allstate Arena.

Xavier, fresh off a major road victory at No. 10 Providence, rolled into Chicagoland looking to care of business against struggling DePaul. They used a balanced attack and a dominant second half to pull out the victory.

Eight Musketeers scored at least six points. Sophomore guard Trevon Bluiett led the way, finishing with 15 points, 13 of which came in the second half.

It was hardly a wire-to-wire blowout though, as DePaul led for the game’s first 17 minutes. Xavier struggled from the field early on. When DePaul leapt out to a 9-0 lead in the game’s first three minutes, Xavier coach Chris Mack was forced to burn a timeout.

DePaul kept plugging along as the first half progressed, maintaining a modest lead and keeping a modest home crowd engaged.

A pair of Hamilton 3-pointers put DePaul up 30-23 with 5:54 left in the first half.

“His 3’s were my fault,” Mack said after the game. “We should have had our four man rather than our five man on him.”

Xavier made that adjustment in the second period. For the remaining few minutes of the first half though, they switched to a 1-3-1 zone which flummoxed DePaul’s offense.

From that point on, the game belonged to Xavier.

The Musketeers tied the game at 32 with 2:14 left in the first half on a pair of free throws by sophomore guard J.P. Macura. Two more free throws 15 seconds later by junior forward Jalen Reynolds gave Xavier a two-point lead they would never relinquish.

By halftime, Xavier had extended their lead to nine. At the 15:09 mark in the second half, a jumper by Bluiett pushed Xavier’s advantage to 59-39.

The Musketeers controlled the entirety of the second half, racing down the court for easy layups and getting to the free throw line relentlessly. Xavier scored 44 points in the second half despite only making two 3-pointers in the period.

“In the second half we had a little bit easier time than we did in the first half of getting … interior looks,” Mack said.

At the end of the afternoon, a large contingent of Xavier fans in the crowd rose to their feet and let out a large cheer.

Coming off a big win, Xavier managed to use their depth to outlast DePaul.

“Sustaining our energy for 40 minutes, that’s been our problem all year,” said DePaul senior Myke Henry, who finished with 10 points.

DePaul did get 15 points from Hamilton, and 18 out of Garrett Jr., but they were unable to muster the team performance necessary to take down one of the Big East’s titans.

“The good thing about (Xavier) is they got lost in the game…when you do that, and you immerse yourself in the team…then you can play a lot of guys,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “We’re not as deep as they are.”

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