By: Ryan O’Toole ~Staff Writer~
As Xavier men’s basketball heads deeper into Big East play, the competition shows no sign of letting up.
The Musketeers split their last two games, falling to the Villanova Wildcats and defeating the Marquette Golden Eagles. The Villanova game was a long one for Musketeer fans. The Muskies trailed 34-18 early and were trying to dig themselves out of a hole for the rest of the evening.
Thanks to red-hot shooting from almost everyone on the ‘Nova squad, the Wildcats never let Xavier get close, and their home crowd was into the game from the very beginning. Villanova took a commanding 45- 27 lead into halftime.
The second half was a different story, as ‘Nova began to miss 3-pointers that initially helped them create so much separation. Senior center Matt Stainbrook was 7-8 from the floor in the
game for the Musketeers, and he helped a key rally.
Xavier shot 53 percent in the second half and outscored Villanova 48-43, but its disastrous start proved to be too much to overcome and the Musketeers fell to No. 5 Villanova, 88-75. In the following game on Jan. 17, Xavier hosted Marquette and looked to get back to its winning ways while building on its home court momentum.
The Musketeers did not dominate, and found themselves playing from behind again for most of the first half, taking a 31-22 deficit into the locker room. The Muskies were ready to play in the second half. Remy Abell performed well, scoring 12 points in the half with four three-pointers, along with Myles Davis, who continues to perform admirably in crunch time this season. Marquette senior guard Matt Carlino was on fire, hitting 6 of 9 from three.
Xavier never had an answer for him, but luckily it was able to shoot well enough in the second half to secure the win. The Musketeers took the lead on a big three from Abell with 7:20 remaining in the game and were able to keep moving forward the rest of the way.
“In the second half we took care of the ball. We turned the tables,” head coach Chris Mack said in his post-game press conference. Hopefully Xavier can build off the big win as they travel to Providence Jan. 22.