Men’s basketball: DePaul holds off No. 21 Xavier for second Big East win of the season


AP Photo/Jeff Dean

DePaul forward David Jones, right, dribbles past Xavier’s Zach Freemantle during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Cincinnati.

A lot of DePaul’s losses in the Big East this season have played out in similar fashion: the Blue Demons play well in the first half, go into the intermission with a lead but can’t hold on to secure the victory in the second half.

A similar story started to play out on Saturday when DePaul paid a visit to No. 21 Xavier, but the Blue Demons managed to hold off the Musketeers in the final minute to win 69-65

DePaul improves to 11-10 overall and 2-9 in the Big East, with both conference wins coming over ranked opponents. 

Head coach Tony Stubblefield only had seven scholarship players available versus Xavier, with leading scorer Javon Freeman-Liberty missing his fifth consecutive game due to a groin injury and Javan Johnson forced to sit out with a hand injury.

Even with both players missing and DePaul coming into the day riding a four-game losing streak, the Blue Demons put together a gutsy performance that was led by senior guard Courvoisier McCauley, who finished with a career-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

McCauley came off the bench to provide a much-needed spark for DePaul. He hit several tough shots in the first half and knocked down a couple of clutch shots late in the second half.

It wasn’t always perfect, however, for the Blue Demons. Following a dunk from sophomore guard Jalen Terry to put DePaul up 32-19 with two minutes to play in the first half, Xavier went on a 22-4 run that spanned over eight minutes between the two halves. 

It started to look like DePaul was going to give away another game in the second half. The Blue Demons committed four turnovers and scored two points opening four minutes of the second half, which allowed Xavier to go up 41-36.

Sophomore forward David Jones, however, stepped up in a big way for the Blue Demons. He helped start a 13-0 run with back-to-back baskets that got himself and DePaul going. 

That 13-0 run put DePaul up eight, a lead the Blue Demons would never give up. Jones, who scored 14 total points in his last three games, finished 12 points on Saturday. 

For a brief moment in the second half it looked like Brandon Johnson suffered a left ankle injury, but he was able to return to the game. He also finished with 12 points, one of four DePaul players to finish in double figures. 

Every time Xavier hit a couple of shots to pull within a basket, DePaul had a response. Senior guard Paul Scruggs, who scored 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, hit a 3-pointer that made it a two-point game — 59-57 — with six minutes to play. 

The Blue Demons didn’t let that affect them. Instead, DePaul scored six straight points to go up eight. 

Less than a minute later, Scruggs scored six consecutive points on his own that — once again — made it a two-point game, 65-63. 

But DePaul didn’t let Scruggs and a loud crowd affect its play. Nick Ongenda and Brandon Johnson hit four free throws that sealed the victory for the Blue Demons. 

DePaul returns to the court on Wednesday when Georgetown pays a visit to Wintrust Arena.