No. 16 Xavier will have revenge on the brain when it hosts DePaul in a Big East matchup Saturday in Cincinnati.
DePaul (9-17, 3-12 Big East) stunned then-No. 8 Xavier on Jan. 18 in Chicago with a 73-72 win, as Da’Sean Nelson scored with 28 seconds remaining to pull off the upset. The Blue Demons have lost all seven games since the biggest win in coach Tony Stubblefield’s tenure.
For Stubblefield, it was his first and only win over a top-10 team in his second season at DePaul.
“We’re gonna get some more,” Stubblefield said. “This is what we’re supposed to do. This is the reason I came here. This should be the norm.”
The Musketeers (19-7, 11-4) enter Saturday’s rematch coming off another last-second road loss, 69-68, to No. 11 Marquette on Wednesday night in Milwaukee. It was a game they led 66-63 with 1:25 remaining before a pair of crucial turnovers by star guard Souley Boum turned the tide against Xavier.
The two turnovers were only part of a sloppy game by Xavier’s ballhandlers that proved costly in the end.
“I’d say they forced about 11 and we gave them six,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “But we turned the ball over 17 times, and they turned it over seven. In addition to that stat, they had 15 (second-chance) shots, including the game-winner, and we had four.”
Boum was 10-of-15 from the field and led Xavier with 24 points in the loss. The grad student is Xavier’s leading scorer at 16.4 points per game and has started all 26 games. He missed four practices since spraining his ankle in Friday’s loss at Butler before being cleared to play at the Wednesday morning shootaround.
“I’m not going to make that excuse for him, but it’s difficult with stakes as high as they are in a game like this to go from Friday at Butler and not be able to practice Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” Miller said. “He did a great job. Played 39 minutes, 24 points. He’s won us about five games at the end. For whatever reason, down the stretch he wasn’t himself. I attribute that to playing in the game and not practicing for four days.”
Xavier fell to 2-2 without starting forward Zach Freemantle, who is dealing with a left foot injury. Freemantle put up a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds in the 73-72 loss to DePaul on Jan. 18.
Additionally, Xavier didn’t have a pair of key freshmen Wednesday as Desmond Claude (non-COVID illness) and forward Kam Craft (knee) sat out. Freemantle and Craft are not expected to play Saturday.
Wednesday’s loss dropped the Musketeers into a three-way tie for second place in the Big East with Creighton and Providence.
DePaul enters the game also trying to rebound from a close loss on Tuesday, a 92-83 double-overtime home defeat at the hands of St. John’s. DePaul was led by Javan Johnson with a game-high 26 points and a career-best-tying six 3-pointers.
Umoja Gibson added 17 in Tuesday’s loss while Nelson chipped in with 15 points and eight rebounds. Nick Ongenda made his season debut for the Blue Demons after missing a large portion of the season due to injury and scored 11.
–Field Level Media