Christon scores 27, Xavier beats DePaul 84-74
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 12:17 AM
AP Sports Writer
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Semaj Christon was relentless in his attack, a blur as he blew past defenders, and Xavier looked like a team that had no interest in keeping this one close.
It turned out this wasn’t quite a runaway. It was good enough, though.
Christon dominated with 27 points, Justin Martin scored 18 and Xavier beat DePaul 84-74 Monday for its 10th win in 11 games.
The Musketeers (15-4, 5-1 Big East) led by 18 at the half behind scorching starts by Christon and Martin and hung on in the second half after DePaul pulled within seven.
Christon, who came in averaging a team-high 16.3 points, finished one shy of his career high set against Marquette on Jan. 9. He had 19 points in the first half alone and hit nine of 19 shots in the game but did not score over the final 9:15.
“I see him do it at practice every day so to me, it’s not really being in awe,” said Isaiah Philmore, who had 13 points and seven rebounds. “Quite frankly, that’s something I expect — not to that extent, but when I looked up and he had (19) at half, that’s something I know he’s capable of. We hang out all the time. We’re in the gym all the time so I know what he can do, and he’s definitely capable of that at any point in time that he puts his mind to it.”
Martin scored 14 in the first half and finished with three 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds, and Xavier hung on after things got tight down the stretch. DePaul was within 72-65 after Billy Garrett Jr. hit a free throw with 5:50 remaining, but Philmore scored on a layup to start a 9-1 run for the Musketeers.
Cleveland Melvin led DePaul with 25 points. Garrett scored 18, but the Blue Demons (10-10, 2-5) hit just 22 of 38 free throws on the way to their second straight loss. Wins over Butler and St. John’s gave them back-to-back Big East victories for the first time in six years, but after getting blown out by Villanova on Saturday, DePaul came up short again.
Coach Oliver Purnell benched second-leading scorer Brandon Young for the second half because he didn’t like the senior’s approach.
“We weren’t getting the leadership,” he said. “We weren’t getting the kind of attitude and leadership out there, so we had to make a change.”
On top of that, the Blue Demons lost two more starters to injuries.
Center Tommy Hamilton IV left with a bruised sternum in the first half while defending a traveling Matt Stainbrook. And guard Charles McKinney twisted his left ankle on defense about six minutes into the second.
It all added up to a difficult game for the Blue Demons even if they stayed in it after a brutal first half.
“They took it to us in the first half,” Melvin said. “Xavier just took it to us and they wanted it more. We backed down. We let them come in our home and get the win.”
After rallying from 17 down to beat Georgetown on Wednesday, Xavier led 50-32 after a dominant first half. The Musketeers had no trouble getting inside and they went on a 17-5 run with the game tied at 22 with about eight-and-a-half minutes left in the first half.
Martin started it by banking in a pull-up jumper while getting fouled by Young and hitting the free throw to complete the three-point play. James Farr, from nearby Evanston, Ill., then nailed a 3-pointer, and Christon broke for a dunk after Garrett lost his dribble, making it 30-22.
The Musketeers continued to pour it on after a layup by Young.
Stainbrook answered with a basket and Martin buried a 3 to make it 35-24. Xavier then responded to a 3 by Melvin with a layup by Christon and a neat reverse baseline drive by Dee Davis, who pumped in mid-air to make it 39-27 and cap the run with just under four minutes left in the half.
The game tightened up in the second half, with DePaul making several threats, but Xavier prevailed despite committing 21 turnovers in the game.
“They played several different types of defenses, and there were a lot more possessions in the second half and fouls that were being called,” coach Chris Mack said. “At the end of the day, it’s a road win. We have to learn from it. We haven’t been a team that’s turned the ball over that much, but DePaul played in desperation mode. We have to do a better job taking care of the ball.”