By: Tim Wilmes ~Sports Editor~
The Xavier men’s basketball team faltered after a promising two-game win streak, losing to the Marquette Golden Eagles 81-72 last Saturday in Milwaukee.
The loss puts the Musketeers’ record at 17-8 (7-5 Big East), leaving the team in a tie for third place in the Big East.
Turnover differential and field goal percentage were the main factors in Xavier’s defeat. The Musketeers turned over the ball 19 times in front of a crowd of over 18,000, leading to 27 Marquette points.
The Golden Eagles, on the other hand, only turned the ball over five times which led to nine points for XU.
Marquette’s sharp shooting percentage was another factor proved to be the Musketeers’ downfall.
The Golden Eagles 9-18 from beyond the arc and went 24-27 from the free throw line in the game.
Through Marquette’s 3-point shooting was impressive in the first meeting that resulted in a Xavier win, the Golden Eagles were more aggressive this time around and converted their free throws compared to the January game in Cintas Center when the team went 10-13 from the free throw line.
Despite the turnovers and Marquette’s specialized shooting, Xavier stayed in the game by capitalizing on 16 offensive rebounds and outrebounding the Golden Eagles 32-20.
The Musketeers also built a pair of scoring runs in the second half to cut Marquette’s lead, including a four point deficit with 2:09 remaining in the game sparked by a 3-point shot from junior forward Justin Martin.
Ultimately, this opportunity was thwarted by a missed layup from senior forward Isaiah Philmore followed by a foul on Philmore. Marquette then pulled away in the last two minutes with more free throws, winning by a score of 81-72.
Martin was the standout for Xavier, recording 20 points and seven rebounds while also going 6-7 from the free throw line and notching the most amount of minutes of any Musketeer with 38.
Freshman guard Myles Davis capitalized on 20 minutes of play while starting guards junior Dee Davis and sophomore Semaj Christon sat out with foul trouble, recording 12 points and three rebounds. Meanwhile, Christon had trouble staying consistent throughout his 37 minutes of play, notching 10 points and going 4-7 from the free throw line but giving up five costly turnovers.
Now, the Musketeers return to Cincinnati to take on the DePaul Blue Demons at 7 p.m. tonight at Cintas Center. Xavier the favorite in this game, having won the first meeting between the two teams 84-74 on Jan. 20 in Chicago. The Musketeers will look to capitalize on the state of the Blue Demons, who have lost eight straight games and are hurting since leading scorer Cleveland Melvin was dismissed from the team.
Xavier gave up 21 turnovers to DePaul the last time the two teams met, and the Musketeers will need to stray away from another high turnover game to ensure a win.
“We’re not playing (the Blue Demons’) record, we’re playing DePaul, and we need to be better than them,” head coach Chris Mack said. “Whether it’s Marquette or it’s against DePaul, turnovers were an issue in both, so we’ve been working the past couple of days to rectify (those mistakes).”
If they can avoid turnovers, the Musketeers should improve to 8-5 in the Big East after tonight.