The Xavier Musketeers followed up a tough road win with a start that seemed unready to handle the DePaul Blue Demons in a 77-72 victory at the Cintas Center.
DePaul erased Xavier's lead with 5:04 left in the first half and took an eight point lead into halftime, 39-31.
To make matters worse for the home team, the Demons parlayed an 10-0 run into a 16-point lead at 51-35 with 17:40 to go. Xavier whittled the lead to forge a tie at 60-60 with 8:19 left.
"We had to match their aggressiveness," Leito said. "Our 23 turnovers are indicative of us. Most of them came from not staying aggressive. We were tentative."
Trevon Bluiett, the Musketeers leading scorer didn't start the game due to an ailing shoulder and he was tardy to a shoot around. Bluiettt ended up with 16 points second on the team to J.P. Macura's 19 points. Quentin Goodin contributed 12 and Karem Kanter 10.
The Demons were propped up by Max Strus, who tied a career high set Northwestern earlier this month with 33 points. Strus, who was recruited by Xavier, was aided by freshman Justin Roberts' 16 points. Roberts was too quick for Xavier guards to cover until the Musketeers confused DePaul with the zone.
"I don't care about the 33 points," Strus said. "We lost. We have to learn from this. We have to stay aggressive and take the crowd out of the game. We were too tentative."
The zone helped Xavier score easy run outs off DePaul turnovers.
"I think our zone hurt them," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "We didn't shoot well early because we took some ill advised shots. The zone plugged some holes and they looked tentative."
Xavier was trailing by 10 points with 14:12 remaining when Mack was called for a technical foul.
"I lost my mind for a moment," said Mack, who celebrated his 48th birthday. "I have to be better than that."
Regardless, Xavier took the lead for good with 7:09 remaining in the game. They used free throw shooting to increase a 73-72 lead to the final 77-72 margin.
Notes: Bluietts 16 points increased his double figure scoring streak to 26 straight games....It was the 200th career win for Chris Mack, leaving him two wins away from Pete Gillen's record 202 victories...Xavier has won nine straight games...Mack's claim of poor shot selection was justified by a season low .281 (9-for-32) shooting percentage in the first half....Xavier held a one rebound edge due to one extra team rebound. Both teams had 10 offensive rebounds....Xavier scored 19 points from the foul line...Xavier committed 14 turnovers but DePaul had 23.
Xavier will host Butler on January 2nd at 7:00 pm.
DePaul faces Georgetown two hours later at home.