No. 3 Xavier clinched its first outright Big East championship and set the school record for regular-season wins with a 65-62 victory over DePaul on Saturday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.
The Musketeers (27-4, 15-3) captured the top seed for the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. They’ll play in the quarterfinals Thursday.
Senior guard Trevon Bluiett paced Xavier with 22 points and set the school’s career 3-point record along the way. His 3-pointer with 12:36 to play was his 308th in a Xavier uniform, which broke the record owned by Romain Sato since 2004.
Senior guard J.P. Macura added 12 points, including a crucial layup with 1:43 left to halt DePaul’s late push, while graduate forward Kerem Kanter and sophomore guard Paul Scruggs contributed 11 points apiece.
Sophomore guard Brandon Cyrus paced DePaul with a career-high 20 points while junior guard Eli Cain notched 14. The Blue Demons (11-19, 4-14) finished with at least a share of the Big East basement for the eighth time in the last 10 years as they tied with St. John’s (15-16, 4-14).
Xavier, which won for the 12th time in the last 13 games, utilized a 12-2 run over a five-minute stretch midway through the first half to seize a 19-8 lead. Bluiett capped the spree with his first 3-pointer and a pair of free throws.
The Musketeers pushed their lead to 22-10 before DePaul, which made just 5 of its first 20 shots, found some holes in the defense. Cain popped two 3-pointers and freshman guard Justin Roberts added a third as the Blue Demons canned five shots in a row to pull within 25-23 at the 3:28 mark.
DePaul clung within 32-26 at the break despite losing top scorer Max Strus for the final 8:43 of the first half after he committed a charging foul and then picked up a technical foul lobbying his case. The technical counted as his third foul and he produced just 2 points in 11 minutes for the half and 7 points in 31 minutes for the game.
Xavier kept trying to pull away in the second half, but DePaul refused to lose contact. On four occasions, the Musketeers opened a double-digit lead only to see the Blue Demons respond with the next basket.
The Musketeers took a 63-55 lead on a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Quentin Goodin with 4:47 left, but then the Musketeers stalled. They whiffed on four consecutive possessions as DePaul pulled within 63-62 on two Tre’Darius McCallum free throws with 1:58 to go, but Macura rescued Xavier with a layup.
DePaul had four chances to get closer, but the Blue Demons turned over the ball and Cyrus missed a layup before Cain and Strus missed game-tying 3-pointers as time ran out.
—Field Level Media