DePaul shocks No. 8 Xavier, snap 11-game losing streak vs Musketeers


Mark Black | DePaul Athletics

Freshman guard Zion Cruz and graduate forward Yor Anei celebrate mid court after the clock hits zero in DePaul’s upset over No. 8 Xavier Wednesday night.

In its first win against Xavier since Wintrust Arena opened, DePaul upset the No. 8 ranked Musketeers in a 73-72 thriller Wednesday night.

“This is what we’re supposed to do,” said head coach Tony Stubblefield. “This is the reason I came here. This should be the norm. 

Graduate guard Umoja Gibson led the way for the Demons, scoring 22 in DePaul’s first win over a top-ten team since beating No. 5 Butler on January 18, 2020, exactly three days earlier.

DePaul kept a slight lead for most of the game after a slow start. It wasn’t until the last two minutes that Xavier finally took a lead of its own. With 46 seconds left, Xavier forward Zach Freemantle buried two free throws to put Xavier up 72-71. 

Gibson dished an assist to Da’Sean Nelson for the go-ahead contest layup with 28 seconds remaining to put DePaul up, 73-72. 

On the next possession, Xavier tried their best to put it in, but graduate forward Eral Penn had other plans and used his physicality to will DePaul to victory, coming up with maybe the biggest rebound of his career with 2.8 seconds left.

Nelson tossed in the inbound, but it hit off a Musketeers defender, and then bounced off Gibson before going out of bounds. Xavier had possession, and with 1.2 seconds left, threw up a shot, but couldn’t get it off in time before the clock hit zero.

The Blue Demons’ defense played exceptional from start to finish and held back an explosive offense that led the Big East in points per game (84), field goal percentage (51%) and three-point percentage (40%) entering Wednesday night.

Stubblefield’s defense held the Musketeers to 38% from the field, 20% from beyond the arc and 72 points.

“I think it’s a testament to our guards,” said Stubblefield of their defensive performance. “Trying to keep their chest in front of those guys, fighting over those screens, and even our guys inside were challenging their shots when they got to the rim.” 

In the program’s biggest win in three years, Wintrust may have been its loudest in recent memory, which gave life to DePaul’s players Wednesday night. 

“It was big,” Gibson said. “We really y’all to pull back through the next game. We feed off y’all, so when you come, we play better.”

DePaul improved to 9-10 on the season and 3-5 in Big East play after Wednesday’s victory.

South Florida transfer guard Caleb Murphy made his long-awaited DePaul debut after entering the game at the 17:36 mark. He ended the night with eight points, two rebounds and two assists to go-along with a blocked shot.

“I wasn’t nervous, more anxious than nervous,” Murphy said.  “Just ready to play.”

Murphy transferred last summer, but had been nursing a wrist injury since that took place before the season and which required surgery in October.

DePaul (9-10, 3-5) will travel to No. 22 Providence (14-5, 6-2) on Saturday with tip-off scheduled for 2 p.m. CST at Amica Mutual Pavilion. The game will be broadcast on FS1.