CHICAGO (AP)Wins like this are just what DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield envisioned when he was hired two years ago to restore a once-proud program. He promised more are coming.
Umoja Gibson scored 22 points, Javan Johnson added 16 and DePaul surprised No. 8 Xavier 73-72 on Wednesday night.
The Musketeers (15-4, 7-1 Big East) came in rolling with 11 straight wins – their best run since the 2015-16 team got off to a 12-0 start. But they came up short against the Blue Demons (9-10, 3-5).
DePaul led by seven with about eight minutes remaining and made just enough plays to come away with its first win over a top-10 team since beating No. 5 Butler exactly three years earlier at Wintrust Arena.
”We’re gonna get some more,” said Stubblefield, a longtime assistant at Oregon before DePaul hired him in April 2021. ”This is what we’re supposed to do. This is the reason I came here. This should be the norm.”
Xavier led 70-68 after a twisting layup by Adam Kunkel with 1:43 remaining. DePaul’s Eral Penn answered with a three-point play, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with a minute to play.
Zach Freemantle put Xavier back on top, 72-71, when he made two free throws with 46 seconds remaining. But Da’Sean Nelson answered with a layup to put DePaul ahead 73-72 with 28 seconds left.
Souley Boum then missed a layup, leading to a scramble and jump ball, giving DePaul possession with 2.4 seconds remaining. That helped seal the Blue Demons’ first win over a ranked opponent since beating No. 21 Xavier on Feb. 5, 2022.
”I feel like we knew we could get the job done,” Johnson said. ”It’s just a matter of sticking together and playing our game and getting stops defensively.”
Gibson, who transferred from Oklahoma last spring, made five 3-pointers. Johnson hit three from beyond the arc. Nelson scored 10, and the Blue Demons won for the second time in three games.
Freemantle had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Xavier. Jack Nunge finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. But it was a rough night for Big East scoring leader Souley Boum and backcourt mate Colby Jones. The two were a combined 4 of 26 from the field and 0 for 8 on 3-pointers, with Boum scoring a season-low four and Jones finishing with eight points.
”They’re also the same two guys that allowed us to be the No. 8 team in America,” coach Sean Miller said. ”You win as a team and you lose as a team. This is the first time since I’ve coached these guys that I thought we had selfishness throughout our offense.”
Coming off a loss to Seton Hall after beating Villanova last week, DePaul led 64-57 with 7:49 remaining after Caleb Murphy hit a pull-up jumper. But Xavier reeled off seven straight, tying it on Freemantle’s layup off a turnover by the Nelson.
Gibson scored 17 in the first half and Johnson added 14 points for DePaul, including a 3 from the wing just before the buzzer that sent the Blue Demons to the locker room leading 45-40.
They were up 31-26 when Xavier went on a 10-2 run that Jerome Hunter finished with a dunk, making it 36-33 with 3:39 left in the half. Gibson then put DePaul back on top with a four-point play.
It was tied at 40 in the closing minute when DePaul’s Eral Penn made two free throws. Boum missed a driving layup before Johnson nailed a 3 to give the Blue Demons a five-point halftime lead.
Xavier: The Musketeers came in leading the Big East in scoring at 84.2 points per game, field-goal percentage and 3-point accuracy, only to turn in this dud. They shot 38% overall while making 4 of 20 3s and finished with just 13 assists. ”If we play offense the way played offense in this game, there’s plenty of more losses coming,” Miller said.
DePaul: The big question for the Blue Demons now is whether they can build on this and use the win as a springboard for the program.
Xavier: Hosts Georgetown on Saturday.
DePaul: Visits No. 22 Providence on Saturday.
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