Down by 16, No. 6 Xavier rallies for 77-72 win over DePaul
CINCINNATI -- No. 6 Xavier is tired of pulling off these huge second-half comebacks.
J.P. Macura scored 19 points and had a steal and a blocked shot in the final minute Saturday, completing the Musketeers’ rally from a 16-point deficit to a 77-72 victory over DePaul.
For the second time this season, Xavier (14-1, 2-0 Big East) had to dig out of a deep hole to pull one out on its home court. The Musketeers were down by 22 against ETSU on Dec. 16 before winning 68-66 win at the Cintas Center.
In both cases, they came out flat and found their energy just in time.
“I just honestly got tired of losing,” said point guard Quentin Goodin , who had 12 points, four assists and a dunk with 18 seconds left. “I wanted to do whatever it took to flip the switch.”
The Musketeers’ ninth straight win let them match the best start in school history. They’ve won seven in a row against DePaul (7-7, 0-2) . They beat the Blue Demons three times last season, including a Big East Tournament win that jump-started their NCAA Elite Eight push.
“We have a lot to learn,” said DePaul’s Max Strus, who matched his season-high with 33 points. “We need to learn to execute at the end of the game and take the crowd out of it.”
Macura made the pivotal plays at the end. His steal set up Goodin’s fast-break dunk for a 75-72 lead with 28 seconds left. He blocked Eli Cain’s shot with 9.5 seconds left, and Trevon Bluiett finished it off with a pair of free throws.
“He’s one of those X-factor guys,” said forward Sean O’Mara, who had eight points. “He brings defensive energy. He’s taking charges, getting hands on the ball. We need that energy from him.”
Xavier shot only 28 percent, including 3 of 16 beyond the arc, as DePaul took a 39-31 lead into halftime. Strus hit six of his eight shots for 16 points in the half, and hit another 3 as the Blue Demons pushed the lead to 16 points early in the second half.
“They were a tenacious team, they were ready to go, they were hungry,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “We were able to flip something with about 16 minutes to go. Our energy increased dramatically.”
Xavier’s shots started falling, and the Musketeers forced DePaul into a season-high 23 turnovers that eased the way.
“When you turn the ball over against a team that’s veteran and skilled and can get up and down the court, that hurt us,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “I think it’s because we got consumed by the moment and didn’t stay aggressive.”
DePaul: The Blue Demons had the roughest opening stretch in Big East play. They lost to No. 1 Villanova 103-85 on Wednesday. They’re 0-4 against ranked teams this season, including losses to Notre Dame and Michigan State. Their last win over a ranked opponent on the road was Jan. 22, 2015 over No. 24 Seton Hall.
Xavier: The Musketeers also came out flat against ETSU and went into a deep shooting slump, scoring only 27 points in the first half. They looked much the same in the first half against DePaul.
“The game started, but we weren’t ready to play,” Goodin said. “DePaul had a great game plan and played really well.”
Bluiett is Xavier’s top scorer, but the senior opened the game on the bench as punishment for showing up late to a shoot-around. He played 31 minutes, scored 16 points, and went only 4 of 13 from the field. Bluiett hadn’t come off the bench in a game since his freshman season.
Mack got his 200th win at his alma mater and celebrated his 48th birthday on Saturday. He’s 200-92 as Xavier’s head coach.
HAPPY AT HOME
Xavier improved to 10-0 at the Cintas Center this season and 238-35 all-time, the sixth-best home winning percentage nationally.
Guard Flynn Cameron will join the Blue Demons next week. The New Zealand native is enrolled for winter quarter that starts on Tuesday.
Xavier’s Tyrique Jones got a dead-ball technical foul early in the second half. Mack got one in the second half for going on court to argue that the Blue Demons made an improper inbounds pass.
DAD IN THE HOUSE
Bill Murray attended the game. His son, Luke, is a Xavier assistant coach.
The Blue Demons host Georgetown on Tuesday.
The Musketeers host Butler on Tuesday.