GAME NOTES: The Xavier Musketeers hit the road this afternoon to do battle with the DePaul Blue Demons in Big East Conference action at Allstate Arena.
For the Musketeers, this marks just the third true road game of the season, the team having split the first two. It has been nearly a week since the Musketeers last took to the hardwood, taking down Georgetown at home on Jan. 15 by a score of 80-67. The victory was the ninth in the last 10 outings for the program, the lone setback during that span coming against a pesky Creighton squad a little over a week ago on the road.
As for the Blue Demons, they had a brief two-game win streak come to an end on Saturday when they suffered an 88-62 blowout loss to nationally-ranked Villanova on the road. DePaul is now just 3-4 in true road dates, but still a solid 7-3 in home opportunities.
DePaul owns an 8-3 advantage in the all-time series between the teams, but this is just their second matchup in the last 40 years. The most recent encounter took place during the 1997-98 campaign when the Musketeers posted a 73-56 victory at Gund Arena in Cleveland as part of the Rock N'Roll Shootout.
The Musketeers had to bide their time against Georgetown last week and then closed the meeting on a 16-0 run, holding the Hoyas scoreless for more than six minutes down the stretch. Semaj Christon tallied 18 points, Dee Davis 17 and seven assists, followed by Isaiah Philmore and Justin Martin with 14 and 10 points, respectively, in the triumph. Limiting themselves to just seven turnovers, the Musketeers outscored the visitors at the free-throw line by an 18-5 margin.
Christon, who is scoring 20.6 ppg in league action as he shoots 61.3 percent from the floor in those five outings, is responsible for 16.3 ppg overall, although his 62.9 percent effort at the free-throw line is more than a little questionable. Matt Stainbrook who, with Christon, is the only player to start every game, is always on the verge of registering a double-double as he averages 11.1 points and a team-best 8.6 rpg.
Down by nine at the break on Saturday, the Blue Demons were at least within sight of Villanova, but that was before the Wildcats erupted for a stellar 73.1 percent shooting effort from the floor in the second half, including 6- of-11 behind the 3-point line. All five DePaul starters managed to score in double figures, but none put up more than 13 points (Brandon Young), and the reserves supplied a mere eight. Billy Garrett pitched in 11 points, shooting only 2-of-8 from the floor, followed by Cleveland Melvin, Timmy Hamilton and Charles McKinney with 10 points apiece.
The only player to have started all 19 games for DePaul, it only makes sense that Melvin is also the leading scorer for the program at this juncture with his 16.3 ppg, shooting an impressive 47.0 percent beyond the arc, but only 63.5 percent at the free-throw line. Young (14.5 ppg) and Garrett (11.5 ppg) can also put the ball in the basket, but they may be more valued for their passing ability which has resulted in a combined 140 assists, a huge chunk of the unit's 236 dishes to this point.
Being at home should give the Blue Demons a bit of an edge, but Xavier can be such an explosive team that trying to hold down the Musketeers for a full 40 minutes might be a lot to ask of the home team today.
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