Marquette Scoring: Gardner 19, Thomas 17, Burton 13, Mayo 10, Dawson 6, Wilson 5, Otule 4, Taylor 3, Wilson 2
Good Stat: Xavier making 32-of-41 free-throws compared to Marquette's 10-of-13 performance is just an insane stat. Against a physical defensive-minded team like Marquette, attacking the basket and getting paint touches to draw contact is a great game-plan, but is much easier said than done. Not only were the Musketeers able to get a ridiculous 41 attempts, but a team who has been maligned for their free-throw shooting shot 78 percent on those attempts. Then, to top it all off, they only put Marquette at the line for 13 shots. Gaining a 22-point advantage at the free-throw line is going to win a lot of games, and it really helped the Musketeers overcome the Golden Eagles' hot 3-point shooting in this one.
Bad Stat: Xavier's 12 turnovers hurt them in this game. The overall number itself isn't too many, but too many of the miscues were costly. Marquette converted those turnovers into 18 points. Specific live ball turnovers, such as Justin Martin's careless pass along the perimeter with 9:50 to play in a four-point game that led to an easy two for Todd Mayo or Stainbrook's turnover with 9:00 left that led to a Deonte Burton 3-pointer to make it a one-point game, came at inopportune times and allowed the Golden Eagles to stay in the game.
Key Performance: Recently we've seen a lot of Semaj Christon "the complete player," but on Thursday night we were treated to "leading scorer" Semaj Christon. He put up a career-high 28 points, and did so on an absurdly efficient performance, while showing us some stuff he's never done. In addition to the great body control and athleticism he shows on some of his drives to the rim, Christon hit a couple of step-back jumpers that had NBA written all over them. He also surprised everyone, including Marquette's defense, by rising up and knocking down all three of his 3-point attempts. He finished 8-of-10 from the field, 3-of-3 from the 3-point line and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. It may not quite have been the all-around performance that we saw last game (he only had three rebounds, two assists and one steal), but it was as impressive as we've seen Christon play on the offensive end. He flat out took the game over at some big moments for Xavier.
Marquette Beats the Scouting Report: What Xavier set out to do, which is keep Marquette out of the paint and match the Golden Eagles' toughness on the glass, they accomplished. In fact, they did exceedingly well in both areas. Unfortunately for Coach Mack and his team, Buzz's boys beat their own scouting report on Thursday at the Cintas Center. A team that came into the game shooting just 28.8 percent from the outside (ranking dead last in the conference), and scoring just 20 percent of its points from beyond the arc (ranking 310 in Division I hoops), the Golden Eagles began the game by nailing 5-of-7 threes to help them gain an early lead. One of the big themes throughout this eight-game Xavier winning-streak has been the Musketeers' ability to weather storms, overcome adversity and every other cliche that means they continue to play with energy and stick to their game-plan even when things don't go their way. Whether it was not scoring for the first several minutes against Alabama and St. John's or watching Butler make shot after shot to start the last game, Xavier was able to move on and make a big run later in the game when percentages evened out to take control. Thursday night against Marquette it was different; there was no let up by the Golden Eagles as they continued to drain 3-pointers at an unprecedented clip throughout the entire game. They finished 11-of-27 from beyond the arc, but the Musketeers never panicked. Mack said after the game that they really didn't make adjustments to counter that, because the last thing they wanted to do was get spread out on defense and allow Marquette to gain more confidence by getting easy buckets at the rim. Instead, the Musketeers did a great job of keeping the ball out of the lane and preventing second-chance opportunities for Marquette. Sometimes the other team is going to make shots. The way the Musketeers have learned to play through that and trust that they've always got enough offense to come back makes them a fun team to watch. It also says a lot about their maturity.
Reynolds and Farr Pick up the Slack: The Musketeers took on a Marquette team that rebounds extremely well and won the battle of the boards 21-12 in the first half despite Matt Stainbrook sitting out for the last 15 minutes with two fouls. Xavier's advantage on the glass allowed the Musketeers to withstand Marquette's early string of 3-pointers without getting far behind. James Farr and Jalen Reynolds have definitely shown improvement already this year. Farr has played a much bigger role and has gotten more of an opportunity to shine, but Reynolds has come a long way in the last two months as well. Thursday night they got a chance to showcase their abilities, as they manned the post for a long stretch in the first half together while going against Marquette's physical, veteran post players Chris Otule and Davante Gardner. The Musketeers' underclassmen battled underneath, and ended up controlling the paint. X held a 20-8 advantage in first half points in the paint to go along with their rebounding margin. They also did a great job defensively. Reynolds showed great toughness and looked to be fully confident in where he's supposed to be on the defensive end, which hasn't always been the case this year. He finished the half with five rebounds in 10 minutes of action. Stainbrook and Philmore have been good all year for X, while Reynolds and Farr have provided a spark at times off of the bench. Thursday night was the first time the Muskies actually had to rely on their young big men, and they rose to the occasion and showed that X just might have one of the deepest frontcourts in the nation.
Takeaway: This is a game that I definitely expected Xavier to win, but I also never expected Marquette to come in and make 11 threes. If the Musketeers want to have a chance at a special season, dominating this stretch of seven home games and at Alabama was a must. They went 8-0, blew out their crosstown rival, and got off to a 3-0 start in the Big east. This team has proven that they're legit, and now they've got a huge opportunity to go into Creighton on Sunday and propel themselves into the top 25 and the national spotlight with a win.