On Thursday night, Xavier won despite allowing DePaul to shoot better than 60 percent from the field.
The Musketeers know they can’t count on history repeating itself against sharp-shooting Creighton on Friday night, when No. 15 Xavier is slated to face the No. 24 Bluejays in a Big East tournament semifinal in New York.
Xavier, the second seed, reached the semifinals for the first time since 2019 by dodging an upset bid from DePaul, which led by 13 in the second half before the Musketeers stormed back to earn an 89-84 win Thursday.
Creighton, the third seed, led wire-to-wire in an 87-74 victory over Villanova.
The winner of Friday’s game will advance to play in the championship game on Saturday against the winner of the first semifinal between No. 6 Marquette, the top seed, and No. 11 UConn, the fourth seed.
Xavier (24-8) led for fewer than three minutes on Thursday, when it allowed DePaul to shoot 61.4 percent (35 of 57) — the highest shooting percentage by a losing team in a Big East tournament game in 25 years. The Blue Demons shot 50 percent (8 of 16) from 3-point range, which was tied for the second-best shooting percentage for a Musketeers opponent from beyond the arc this season.
“Very seldom do you look at a stat sheet and the team that you played shot 61 percent for the game, 50 percent from three, 6-for-7 from the free-throw line and we win,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “When we needed key stops, we got them down the stretch, but we had to overcome our defense tonight in a big way.”
Xavier trailed 59-46 with 14 1/2 minutes left before ending the game on a 43-25 run. While DePaul was 10 of 22 from the field in that stretch — including four straight misses in the final 11 seconds — the Musketeers forced six turnovers, which they turned into nine points.
Jack Nunge’s layup gave Xavier the lead for good at 81-80 with 2:01 left, after which Colby Jones sank a jumper off a steal.
“We have to be prepared and be more ready from the get-go than we were tonight,” Miller said. “Our defense was not good and certainly DePaul had a lot to do with that.”
Creighton (21-11), which scored 99 points and 84 points in its final two regular-season games, remained hot Thursday. The Bluejays opened their first double-digit lead fewer than nine minutes into the game, led 32-23 at the half and were up 49-30 with 14:05 left.
Creighton shot 57.7 percent in the second half (15 of 26), including 58.3 percent (7 of 12) from 3-point range. The Bluejays’ defense limited Villanova to 41.9 percent shooting (26 of 62) and 43.3 percent (13 of 30) from 3-point distance. The Wildcats rank fifth in the nation with 48 percent of their field-goal attempts coming from beyond the arc.
“Obviously (a key was) the job we did defensively in the first half and to start the second half — they had 23 points in 30 possessions the first half, then they scored two (points in) their first 10 (second-half possessions),” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “Always feel like if you want to beat Villanova, you’ve got to make as many threes as they do. We had 12, they had 13.”
Creighton is trying to reach the Big East championship game for the third straight year and the fifth time since joining the league in 2013-14.
“I told the team in the locker room: I looked at my watch and it’s game day already,” McDermott said early Friday morning. “You’ll be operating on a little bit of adrenaline (Friday) night.”
–Field Level Media