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Feb 2, 2024 11:51 pm

Coming off big victory, Xavier faces lowly DePaul

After a morale-boosting home victory this week, Xavier will hit the road to face DePaul on Saturday at Chicago in a much better frame of mind.

Xavier (11-10, 5-5 Big East) rolled to an 88-77 win over St. John’s on Wednesday behind 23 points each from Quincy Olivari and Desmond Claude, taking much of the sting away from a demoralizing defeat last weekend.

A road loss to No. 1 UConn on Sunday was not unexpected, but how it occurred was an ego bruise. The Musketeers fell 99-56 after scoring just 22 points and shooting 27.6 percent in the first half.

There was little offense and even less defense as UConn shot 58.5 percent for the game.

“They beat us so bad that you wondered if you would be able to play basketball, or win a basketball (game), again,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said after the victory over St. John’s. “No matter who you were on that trip, you had to be filled with some doubt, simply because of how out of hand that game was.

“Once that ends, you don’t have a crystal ball on how it’s going to go. It could go really bad. But to our players’ credit, we left it there, we learned from it (and) we moved on quickly.”

If not the Musketeers’ best performance of the conference season to date on Wednesday, Miller called it certainly the most meaningful one.

Xavier has been unable to find some traction in an up-and-down season. The Musketeers are 0-5 against ranked teams, with four of those against teams ranked in the nation’s top six at the time.

DePaul (3-8, 0-10) now is under the guidance of interim head coach Matt Brady after Tony Stubblefield was fired Jan. 22.

Brady has gone 0-3, dropping his first two games at the helm to ranked teams, then-No. 14 Marquette (86-73 on Jan. 24) and then-No. 17 Creighton (85-62 on Jan. 27).

Then came a 72-39 blowout defeat at home against Seton Hall on Tuesday, with Blue Demons leading scorer Chico Carter Jr. (11.8 points) missing his fourth consecutive game because of a rib injury. Caleb Murphy (wrist) and K.T. Raimey (back) also were out.

While the Blue Demons played a promising first half last weekend against the Bluejays, with a path forward under Brady somewhat visible, there was little to take from the loss to the Pirates, when DePaul shot 22 percent from the floor.

“I’ve worked with the staff to get our guys in a place where they knew they could win, and I thought for two games they felt like they could,” Brady said postgame, according to 247sports. “I don’t have an answer for this. I’m embarrassed by our performance. I’m surprised by our two steps back today.”

Not only was DePaul outrebounded 46-30, but the Blue Demon committed 15 turnovers. Seton Hall shot 56.7 percent in the second half and 50.8 percent for the game. The Blue Demons’ Da’Sean Nelson scored 11 points off the bench, but no starter scored more than eight.

Jaden Henley did have a career-best five steals for DePaul, which tied a season high with nine steals as a team.

–Field Level Media

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