DePaul extends winning streak to four games after defeating Xavier

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Alexa Sandler/The DePaulia

DePaul guard Dee Bekelja drives to the rim past a Xavier defender on Wednesday at Wintrust Arena.

Playing their second straight game at Wintrust Arena, DePaul were aiming to win their fourth consecutive game taking on Xavier. The Musketeers made things close but once again, the Blue Demons managed to come away with a 83-75 win.

It was an interesting lead up to the game considering the Musketeers had not played a game since Jan. 23 due to a pause in activities caused by Covid-19 related issues. In the first half, Xavier did not look like a team who had been off for nearly a month. 

“Coach Moore, her team has had to be on pause for 24 days and I can’t imagine how tough that is,” DePaul women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno said. “For their players to be able to get back out on the floor for the first time since Jan. 23rd, they had to be real excited to play.”

And play they did. The Musketeers hung in there with the Blue Demons throughout the opening quarter. Any sign of rust was non-existent as Xavier found themselves down only two points to end the first quarter.

DePaul began to create some separation in the second, thanks in large part to turnovers. The Blue Demons forced Xavier to turn the ball over eight times, which led to nine DePaul points. It was a low scoring quarter but the home team went into halftime leading by nine.

DePaul junior guard Lexi Held takes a charge against Xavier on Wednesday at Wintrust Arena. (Alexa Sandler/The DePaulia)

The third quarter was DePaul’s best in terms of offense. They scored 29 points and shot 47.8 percent from the field. But they were outdone by Xavier who scored 30 and shot a superior 64.7 percent.

A concerning trend that has emerged during this winning streak is DePaul building up a lead and start to pull away only for the opposition to come right back and get back in the game. For coach Bruno, the cause is quite clear.

“Just lack of focus,” Bruno said. “In these four games we were up 17 at Marquette, up 20 at St. John’s, up 15 against Seton Hall, up 15 today. I remind them that we wouldn’t have the lead if not for the players that got us the lead so you should be the players that should be able to grow the lead. Grow the lead, not blow the lead. That’s becoming our new mantra.”

In the past four games, DePaul has bent but have yet to break. Xavier managed to get to within three points of the Blue Demons with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter. But some opportune shots by Sonya Morris and Lexi Held was enough for DePaul to pull away with a win.

Morris finished the game with 22 points, six rebounds and seven steals. Those 22 points were enough to see Morris reach 1,000 points in her college career.

“It just feels real good,” Morris said post game. “I wasn’t expecting it so it’s a good surprise after a tough win so it feels good. I’m real happy.”

Lexi Held, who led all scorers with 25 points and also had six assists and five steals, knows it is important for DePaul to win close games such as these down the stretch.

“It’s definitely very important,” Held said. “Our goal is to not let them get close but when it does, I’m really proud of our team for being resilient and being able to pull them out.”

DePaul has a high-tempo offense and while that may get them in trouble in certain moments of the game, it’s not something coach Bruno is going to tinker with quite yet.

“When you play fast, like I allow them to play fast, that tends to happen,” Bruno said. “It’s a lot easier to control this at a slower pace. But we’re dedicated to the faster pace.”

With the win, DePaul not only extended their winning streak to four, but improved their record all-time against Xavier to 21-1, including 11-0 at home.

The Blue Demons are now 13-4 overall in the season and 10-2 in conference play. DePaul will look to win their fifth game in a row on Saturday when they take on Creighton at Wintrust Arena.