Quick Take: Xavier 83 DePaul 64

Xavier took down DePaul in front of 9,752 fans at the Cintas Center on Wednesday night. Read Rick Broering's quick take on the Musketeers' Big East win.

Key Performance: In the first half with Stainbrook only playing seven minutes due to foul trouble, the Musketeers needed someone to step up and score. Once again, Justin Martin was there to answer the call. He came out aggressive and really seemed to get the offense going initially in the first half. Martin scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, and should have been in double-figures but was only able to convert 1-of-5 free-throw attempts. He also had three rebounds and an assist with no turnovers in the first half. In the second half, he made sure that Xavier wouldn't let DePaul creep back into the game like the Blue Demons were able to do last time. He scored eight straight points in a little over a minute to put the Musketeers' up 24 after the first four minute war of the half. He finished with 22 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc and 7-of-11 at the free-throw line. He also had two assists, one steal and one turnover.

Good Stat:  The Musketeers stayed true to their conservative style when it comes to attempting 3-pointers, but they were unusually hot in this one as they nailed 8-of-10 from long-range. Most of the damage was done by Dee Davis (4-of-5) and Justin Martin (3-of-3), but Myles Davis also made his only attempt of the game. On the surface it would seem like the only difference between this game and any other game is Dee Davis making shots, but it's more likely that the execution and patience the Musketeers, particularly Davis, showed had a positive impact on their shooting percentage. Their ball movement was excellent throughout the game, both in transition and in the halfcourt, which led to some great looks. Martin also said that shooting in the Cintas Center is always a big deal to him and makes him feel a lot more comfortable. 

Bad Stat: It didn't make a difference in this game because of the Musketeers' dominant performance, but their struggles from the free-throw line returned again in the first half. A poor stretch towards the end of the half that saw them miss 10 freebies coincided with a hot streak for DePaul where they hit four threes and quickly cut X's lead from 17 to 10. That was the only point through the 40 minutes where it felt like DePaul might make it a competitive game. Had the Musketeers made their free-throws during that stretch then they would have comfortably weathered the flurry of threes, but to their credit they bounced back in the second half and made 15-of-22 from the line to put the game away after DePaul made it sloppy. 

X Starts Strong in Both Halves: Xavier has struggled with slow starts throughout Big East play, especially in Saturday's loss to Marquette. That wasn't an issue Wednesday night as the Musketeers led by as many as 17 in the first half, and couldn't have gotten off to a quicker start. The initial energy on defense was as good as the patience on the offensive end. The Musketeers scored on their first two possessions with a nice cut by Martin off an assist from Stainbrook and a dunk for Christon after they ran through their offense and caught the Blue Demons rotating. On the other end, Xavier's active defense early led to some bad shots and turnovers by DePaul which ignited the Musketeers' transition offense, and led them to 11 easy fast break points in the half. They held an 8-2 lead at the first media timeout, after forcing DePaul to miss seven of its first eight shots. By the 12:00 mark, X's lead had ballooned to 16-2, and the game was never really in doubt from that point. At halftime, the lead was 12, 39-27. The Musketeers came back out on fire in the second half. Led by eight points from Justin Martin including two threes, they went on a 14-2 run in the first four minute war, and extended a 12-point halftime lead into a 24-point edge at the first media timeout. Good ball movement was a big part of the Musketeers' offensive success. They had 23 assists on 27 made shots, and five different guys finished the game with multiple assists so it wasn't just Dee Davis and Christon creating all the offense themselves.

Dee Still Making Progress: Dee Davis' impact on this team has been well documented, and it was as apparent as ever on Wednesday night. The Musketeers' offense was a smoothly operating machine for most of the game. They shot 64 percent (27-of-42) from the field, 80 percent (8-of-10) from 3-point range, and averaged 1.239 points per possession. Davis was nearly flawless. In addition to his usual strong effort on the defensive end, he was even more impressive on offense where he scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, dished out seven assists and only turned the ball over once. Coming into the game,valuing each possession and not turning the ball over was a big focus after allowing Marquette to score 27 points off of 19 turnovers, and Davis set the tone for the team in that regard by making good decisions. His long-range shooting seems to be dependent on his confidence, but his confidence may depend on which jump shots he's choosing to take. In this game (and others where he's shot the ball well), he got off to a great start getting others involved, as he assisted on three of the team's first six baskets. Midway through the half, the defense quit respecting him as much and his teammates started looking for him. Myles Davis assisted Dee's first two threes with 11:35 and 2:07 respectively to play in the first half. Once he knocked down a couple of great looks, he had his confidence rolling and was even more aggressive in the second half. Mack said after the game that he is still improving his knowledge and feel for how to get open looks for himself, but that he showed great progress in that regard against DePaul, specifically recalling a three in the second half where he played cat-and-mouse with a defender who went under a screen and followed Stainbrook a little bit too much before getting caught too far to even contest Davis' shot, noting that it took patience and was a sign of growth for his junior guard.

Takeaway: Xavier took care of business against DePaul. The Musketeers handled an inferior team from start to finish at home to make sure they stay in position for an NCAA tournament bid. There were definitely some positives - improving focus on defense in the second half, making its free-throws in the second half, Dee Davis' play, and they took care of the basketball - but at the end of the day they had DePaul spread out on defense and were able to get pretty much anything they wanted. One overlooked fact from this game that may pay dividends down the road is that Christon only played 33 minutes and Stainbrook only played 17. Anytime you can get your two best players, particularly one built like Stainbrook, rest in the middle of the conference season, it's a nice luxury. We'll see if that makes any difference in their early game against Georgetown on Saturday.


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