MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NY – After a wild back and forth contest, the DePaul Blue Demons prevailed against the Xavier Musketeers, completing the upset to close out the first day of the 2020 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament, 71-67.
Both teams seemingly traded baskets in the first half, as DePaul guard Charlie Moore and Xavier forward Zach Freemantle energized their offenses with 10 and 14 points, respectively. At the break, the Blue Demons held a slight edge, leading 38-34.
The final twenty minutes were eerily similar to the first half, with the two teams battling it out on every possession. DePaul’s Paul Reed, who had returned from a hip injury in time for the Big East Tournament, was a force to be reckoned with in the second period. The Junior forward scored 13 of his game-leading 23 points after the intermission, shooting an impressive 9/16 from the field in the process.
The Musketeers had a chance to tie the game with under a minute remaining in regulation, trailing 63-66, but an excellent defensive effort by Moore sealed the victory for the Blue Demons.
Speaking with the media after the game, Coach Dave Leitao and Charlie Moore gave their thoughts on the final result.
Coach Leitao discussed his team’s performance in an extremely competitive game, emphasizing some of the things they did well and crediting his players for DePaul’s success against Xavier.
“We outrebounded them, which is the number one key because they feed off their ability to get second shots so much. But Charlie with a lot of minutes playing real well, 18 and 9 with only two turnovers. Paul, in the first game back, with 23 and 12. I thought Jaylen Butz was really good. And solid by Romeo and some of the guys off the bench. Nick, I thought, gave us quality minutes. And you’re going to need that. Everybody has to be at their best if you’re going to win at this time of year.”
Moore explained his team’s mindset coming into the game after losing to Xavier in both of their regular-season matchups.
“We just came out and stuck with the plan, the game plan. Came out, gave energy. Tried to limit their rebound, offensive rebound attempts, just play defense as a team. I thought we did a great job of that tonight.”
After the game, it was announced that there would be a limited number of fans allowed for the remainder of the tournament because of the Coronavirus. Coach Leitao gave his opinion on the current situation and its impact on college basketball.
“I think the first responsibility for everybody in this world that we’re living in currently is safety at the expense of a packed building. We all would love that; players would love it. The coach would love it; the fans; anybody would love it.” He continued, “But if one person suffers because of it, or if it spreads because of it, then it’s probably — whether it’s fan interest, economics, whatever, it’s probably not the right thing to do.”
With the victory, DePaul advances to the next round of the Big East Tournament and will face No. 2 Villanova tomorrow at 7:00 pm.