By: Adam Tortelli ~Staff Writer~
Xavier men’s basketball continued its historic season this past week with hard-fought victories over the St. John’s Red Storm and the Golden Eagles of Marquette University before dropping an ugly game to the Creighton Bluejays.
Xavier entered its Feb. 3 matchup with St. John’s (7-18, 0-12 Big East) favored by 23.5 points, but faced much stiffer competition than expected in a 90-83 win. Redshirt junior guard Myles Davis led the Musketeers with 16 points, while sophomore guard Trevon Bluiett, redshirt freshman guard Edmond Sumner, sophomore guard J.P. Macura and senior forward James Farr all finished with double figure point totals.
The game against Marquette (15-9, 4-7 BE) was also a tougher challenge for the Musketeers than predicted, but the Musketeers pulled out a tough 90-82 victory. Highlighting the game was the trio of Sumner, Blueitt and Macura, as all three ended the game with at least 20 points. In particular, Macura got under the skin of Marquette players throughout the first half with his usual extra-curricular antics. However, it was the second half, in which Macura did not miss a shot, where the visitors had their hands full.
Creighton started Tuesday’s game against the Musketeers on a 21-4 run and never looked back, blowing out Xavier 70-56. Xavier went just 1-21 from downtown over the course of the game.
Stopping a stud:
Marquette freshman forward Henry Ellenson finished the game against Xavier with a stuffed stat line of 22 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. Ellenson, who had 42 points in the two games prior, is projected to be a top-10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
In the midst of dominance from the three sophomores, true freshman Kaiser Gates played a monumental role late in the Marquette game while Blueitt caught his breath for the final stretch. Gates’s three pointer brought the Musketeers’ comeback to within four points at 61- 57 only to follow with a putback after a missed Myles Davis layup to tie the game at 63.
While fellow big men Reynolds, Farr and O’Mara struggled to find any traction, Gates showed once again the versatility and depth this year’s team possesses.
Farr out of sight:
For seemingly the first time this season, Farr struggled find minutes on the floor against Marquette. Farr has easily been Xavier’s best big man all year despite pre-season accolades for Reynolds and glimpses of O’Mara or Gates. However, he only mustered nine minutes of playing time and zero rebounds while battling nagging injuries.
Today, Xavier stands at 21-3 and ranked fifth in the country for the second time this season. With home court matchups in the coming week against fellow Big East powers No. 20 Providence and number one in the country Villanova, Xavier can set itself up in prime position for the NCAA tournament this coming March.
It would take a major collapse for the Musketeers to enter the tournament ranked anything lower than a three seed, which would tie a school-best. With continued success and some luck from the selection committee, Xavier will have their best chance to reach its first Final Four appearance in Houston, Texas.
Xavier will travel to Indianapolis on Saturday to take on the Butler Bulldogs (16-7, 5-6 BE). The Bulldogs entered Big East play 11-1 and ranked tenth, but have not rebounded well to back-to-back losses to Providence and Xavier. The Xavier game in particular was rough, as the Bulldogs trailed by at least nine points the last ten minutes of the game as Xavier built a lead that at one point grew to 24.
The Musketeers will have to contend with reigning Big East Player of the Week Kelan Martin, who scored 55 points over the course of Butler’s two games last week. The game will tip off at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on Fox.