CINCINNATI — Xavier is used to winning basketball games. DePaul isn’t. It didn’t take long to figure out how Wednesday night’s game was going to finish.
Senior forward Justin Martin scored a career-high 22 points while junior guard Dee Davis added 17 points and seven assists as Xavier blew out reeling DePaul 83-64 at Cintas Center.
Xavier (18-8, 8-5 Big East) shot a season-high 64.3 percent (27 of 42) as it surpassed its win total from last season, when it went 17-14 and had its streak of six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances snapped. The Musketeers are in third place in the Big East behind Creighton and Villanova.
The Musketeers never trailed in the game and led by double digits the final 33 minutes, 52 seconds of the game. They turned 13 DePaul turnovers into 17 points and outscored the Blue Demons 24-2 on fast-break points.
Xavier had a season-high 23 assists as a team on its 27 made field goals. Davis leads the team averaging 4.9 assists per game, which is second in the Big East.
“Dee, he’s the quarterback,” Martin said. “It makes the game that much easier. When we’re able to get stops on defense, Dee is able to push the ball, we’re able to get out in transition and find each other. Dee’s one of the best point guards I’ve ever played with.”
The loss was the ninth in row for DePaul (10-17, 2-12), including its seventh straight since leading scorer Cleveland Melvin was suspended for violating team rules and subsequently left the school.
Freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr. led DePaul with 17 points, while junior forward Forrest Robinson scored a career-high 14, making four 3-pointers.
Senior guard Brandon Young (12) and senior forward Sandi Marcius (11) also scored in double figures, but DePaul shot just 35.8 percent (19 of 53), its third-lowest percentage of the season.
“This was a prime example of the rut we’re in,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “We’ve got to find a team that can start and get us into the teeth of the game without putting ourselves in a hole. I really do believe if we can do that then we can have a chance to win in the second half going down the stretch.”
This is the sixth straight season DePaul has had a losing streak of at least nine games.
Martin had eight points during Xavier’s 14-0 run to open the second half as the Musketeers took a 53-27 lead, their largest of the game.
Sophomore guard Semaj Christon and senior forward Isaiah Philmore added 14 and 11 points, respectively, for Xavier. The Musketeers’ previous season high for field goal percentage was 58.3 in an 84-74 win over DePaul on Jan. 20 in Chicago. Xavier made 54 of 90 field goals (60 percent) in the two games.
“I was happy with the way our guys started. I thought our team was ready to play,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “As a coach you always worry about your team’s emotions, their readiness to play when you play a team that doesn’t have great record.”
Xavier led 39-27 at halftime.
The Musketeers scored the first six points of the game and jumped out to a 16-2 lead as DePaul made just one of its first 11 shots and turned the ball over four times in the opening eight minutes.
“We’re not giving ourselves a chance, turning the ball over and not taking great shots,” said Purnell. “Particularly when you play against a team that’s so good in transition, that’s a recipe for getting yourself down early and that’s exactly what happened.”
Christon scored 10 first-half points, and Xavier led by as many as 17. DePaul cut its deficit to 10 points as Robinson hit three 3-pointers during an 11-4 run. Xavier pushed its advantage back to 15 points before Garrett hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
NOTES: DePaul played at Xavier for the first time since Feb. 9, 1974, when the Blue Demons beat the Musketeers 77-70. … When DePaul G Billy Garrett Jr. made a 3-pointer with 9:26 left in the first half, it extended the Blue Demons’ streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to 639. … Xavier began
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