Quick Take: Xavier 84 DePaul 74

Xavier took down DePaul, 84-74, Monday evening in front of 6,531 fans at Allstate Arena. Read Rick Broering's quick take on the Musketeers' first road win in Big East play.

Xavier Scoring: Christon 27, Martin 18, Philmore 13, Randolph 8, Stainbrook 6, Dee Davis 6, Farr 4, Stenger 2

DePaul Scoring: Melvin 25, Garrett 18, McKinney 9, Young 7, Marcius 5, Ryckbosch 3, Hamilton 2, Robinson 2, McDonald 2, Marrero 1

Key Performance: Christon's 27-point performance was as necessary to Xavier's success as it was efficient, but the performance that stood out as crucial was Justin Martin's. As crazy as it is to say, Christon's huge point total is almost expected these days. On a night where neither Matt Stainbrook or Dee Davis were scoring for Xavier, Martin filled the void and stepped up with an 18-point game - his second highest point total of the season. He finished 4-of-6 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and he was 7-of-9 from the free-throw line. He also had seven rebounds and two steals. This marked the sixth straight game that Martin has scored in double-figures, and in four of those six he's had 15 or more. Only Christon has been more consistent with his play during that stretch.

Good Stat: It was impossible not to notice the role that fouls played in this game. There were 48 fouls called and 68 free-throws shot between the two teams, which definitely hurt the flow of the game at times in the second half and made it hard to watch. However, the Musketeers made the most out of the calls they were given, as they made 24-of-30 free-throw attempts (80%), while Marquette made just 22-of-38 (57.9%). Christon, who struggled mightily at the free-throw line to start the season, led the team at the line by going 9-of-11. Chris Mack also chose for Christon to shoot a pair of technical and flagrant free-throws.

Bad Stat: After holding an 18-point lead at halftime, the second half was a constant struggle for the Musketeers to remain in control. The main issue was their sloppy play with the basketball. Once they quit attacking the back end of DePaul's pressure defense to try and run some clock, they found themselves trapped in some tough spots. They also let their intensity drop with their reserved style of play, which led to guys being weak with the basketball or just being too careless with where they were throwing it. Their season-high 21 turnovers led to 24 points for the Blue Demons. Thirteen of those turnovers came in the second half, which allowed DePaul to make it as close as a seven-point game with just 5:50 to play before Xavier finally pulled away for good. It wasn't a good stretch for the Musketeers, but at the same time they aren't a team that typically struggles too much with turnovers or attacking pressure defense. In this case, an 18-point lead at halftime may have hurt them as much as anything.

Musketeers Hit 80 for Fourth Straight Game: Xavier has seemingly always been known for its defensive prowess. The great Sean Miller coached tournament teams built Xavier's national identity on its Pack Line defense, and Mack has brought that identity into the Big East with the Musketeers. While the emphasis is still the same on the defensive end, after Monday's 84-74 win at DePaul there's no doubt left that this year's Xavier squad is carving out its own niche on the offensive end. The 84 points marked the fourth straight game that the Musketeers have scored 80 or more points, bringing their season average up to 76.1 points per game, a far cry from last year's offensively challenged team that averaged 65.2 per game. Their point distribution isn't all that different, with 55.5 percent of their points coming from 2-point baskets, 22.2 percent from 3-pointers, and 22.3 percent from the free-throw line compared to last year's marks of 57.6 percent twos, 20.8 percent threes, and 21.6 percent free-throws. This year's squad has more options, which has made scoring a lot easier for the Musketeers. As a result, they play faster and get better looks. Last year they averaged exactly 1.0 point per possession and 64.4 possessions per 40 minutes, while this season they're averaging 69.2 possessions per 40 and 1.08 points per possession. It's not hard to see what's working well for X right now. It starts with the most unguardable guard in the conference in Semaj Christon, and a center who is as effective as a distributor as he is a secondary scoring option in Matt Stainbrook. But the biggest difference the last four games where the Musketeers have hit 80, and really the last 11 games during which they've gone 10-1, has been the production of the role players. Dee Davis has brought more than just intangibles and defense as he's been a timely scorer and a spark with his play-making ability for his teammates. Justin Martin has morphed into a confident knockdown shooter and consistent secondary option that has scored in double figures in six straight games. Isaiah Philmore and James Farr have taken turns coming up with big shots at the forward spot, and Myles Davis and Brandon Randolph have even chipped in at times, despite becoming less a part of the offense as the season has progressed.

Road Kill: One of the big concerns left about this team is how it will fare on the road in the Big East. Monday marked just the Musketeers' second road game in the conference, but if the first two are any indication of what to expect going forward, they're going to be just fine. Xavier has not struggled to score at all on the road so far. They went out to Creighton and scored 89 points, jumped out to a 15-3 lead, and scored 54 second-half points to keep pace and make it a game with the ridiculously hot-shooting Bluejays. They got off to another strong start at DePaul and this time continued that momentum all the way to intermission, finishing the first half with 50 points and and an 18-point lead. Their defense could use some improvement, and Monday they turned the ball over too often, but so far the Musketeers have looked pretty strong on the road in Big East play. They're shooting the ball well from the outside, 16-of-34 in the two games, and they're out-rebounding their opponents by a combined margin of 72-63. If they continue to perform like this on the road, they'll get a few more road kills before the year is over.

Takeaway: A 10-point conference win on the road is always a good thing. The Musketeers came out with a mentality of taking care of business in the first half, and really took it to DePaul early. Even though the Blue Demons made it a game in the second half, Xavier was in control the whole way after building that 18-point first half lead. This game has to give fans confidence about how the team will fare on the road going forward. With Villanova falling to Creighton later on in the night, the Musketeers are now tied for second in the conference with Villanova at 5-1, and all three of the top teams including Creighton now have one loss. This was a win they had to get, and now it sets them up for a big opportunity at Providence on Saturday.


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