NEW YORK (AP) — DePaul is heading to the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference Tournament for the first time in six years with a win not many anticipated.
Paul Reed had 23 points and 12 rebounds and the lowly Blue Demons won their first conference tournament game since 2014 with a come-from-behind 71-67 over seventh-seeded Xavier in a first-round game on Tuesday night.
“We just came out and stuck with the plan, the game plan,” said guard Charlie Moore, who added 18 points and nine assists for 10th-seeded DePaul (16-16). “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.”
The win will send the Blue Demons, who won three of 18 conference games this season, to a quarterfinal showdown against second-seeded Villanova on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
“For everybody this time of year a lot at stake,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “Want to live to play another day. And in order to get to where you want to get to, you've got to take it one step, one possession at a time. I thought we did do that.”
Tyrique Jones had 22 points to lead Xavier (19-13). Zach Freemantle matched his career high with 18 and Naji Marshall scored 15 for the Musketeers, who made 1 of their last 10 shots.
The two first-round games on Wednesday night — St. John's beat Georgetown in the opener — will be the last ones without fan restrictions. The league announced during the DePaul-Xavier game that the remainder of the conference's tournament will be played under a restricted attendance policy.
Attendees will be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, television personnel, credentialed media and immediate family members of the participating teams. Schools will be limited to 200 tickets per institution.
It won't matter for seventh-seeded Xavier. It had used a 13-point run to take a 59-53 lead with 9:18 to play, but the Musketeers scored eight points the rest of the way in failing to win a tournament game for the first time since joining the league seven years ago.
After falling behind by six points, Moore hit a 3-pointer and Reed slammed home a dunk around a shot by Xavier's KyKy Tandy to get within 61-58. DePaul would eventually take the lead for good on a shot by Reed in the paint for a 64-63 lead with 4:15 to play. Jaylen Butz scored inside with 2:47 to go and Moore made two free throws to up the advantage to 69-63 with 29 seconds left.
“I think basketball is a game of runs,” Marshall said. “Like you said, they was up nine, we were up six. Next thing you know we lose the lead. Coach said there, we were pretty tired. Crashed the offensive glass towards the second half. Like he said, we was tired. And we didn't execute our system on defense or offense.”
DePaul used a 13-2 run to open a 35-24 lead late in the first half, but Freemantle hit two 3-pointers in a 10-3 spurt to close the gap to 38-24 at the half.
DePaul: Will face second-seeded Villanova on Thursday night in the quarterfinals. The Blue Demons, who are now 3-12 in the Big East Tournament, lost twice against the Wildcats this season.
Then again, Xavier beat DePaul twice this season, too.
Xavier: This loss could knock Xavier into the NIT. “That's up to the people on the committee, obviously,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said of the NCAA Tournament. “I think we play in the toughest league in the entire country. You look at our strength of schedule, I think it was fifth heading into the Big East in the entire country. And we've beaten some good teams. Again, I think we deserve to be in there. But, again, at the same time it's not up to us.”
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