By: Kyle Tooley ~Sports Editor~
The men’s basketball team fell to the Creighton Bluejays Monday afternoon, marking the third straight loss for the Musketeers. This losing streak is the longest the team has endured since the 2013-14 campaign.
The first loss came at the hands of the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats, who throttled the Musketeers in Philadelphia on Jan. 10 by a score of 79-54. Xavier shot a horrendous 29 percent from the field, including 18 percent from distance. As a team that normally relies on attacking the rim, the Musketeers hoisted 32 three-point field goals across the 40 minutes, including 20 in the first half.
Xavier traveled to Indianapolis four days later to take on the Butler Bulldogs. Despite outshooting its opponent and keeping pace in the rebounding battle, Xavier shot 72 percent from the free throw line and recorded 16 turnovers, leaving the team in a hole too deep to overcome.
Facing a ranked opponent for the third straight game, the Musketeers seemed to be fighting out of a deficit for the entirety of the Creighton game. Though the Bluejays played the majority of the contest without Maurice Watson Jr. and Justin Patton, due to injury and foul trouble, respectively, Xavier never found control of the game.
Finding itself in a 61-50 deficit with eight minutes to play, the Musketeer defense helped the team rip off a 17-5 lead to take a one-point advantage with a little over a minute to go.
A Patton tip-in gave Creighton the go-ahead bucket that ended up making a difference in the contest. Down one with the ball and about 25 seconds to play, Xavier missed four field goal attempts in a matter of about seven seconds, dashing any hopes it had at a lead. After a pair of Creighton free throws extended the lead to three, Trevon Bluiett missed triple from the corner and put the Musketeers away for good.
Rarely will the Bluejays score 72 points and lose, as their high-octane offense has been a staple of their program for years. Creighton, who shoots more than 40 percent from three, was held to just a 26 percent mark at Cintas. Similar to the loss at Butler, the Musketeers turned the ball over 17 times and shot 16-29 from the charity stripe.
“As a coach, if you’re coaching effort and toughness, that’s a problem,” head coach Chris Mack said following the Creighton game. “I feel like the last couple games I was coaching that, and I wasn’t coaching that today. So it’s disappointing because you want the result to sort of match the effort that’s given, but life doesn’t always work that way.”
Xavier, though having only two games decided by five points or less last season, has already played in seven contests that have been within five points, going 4-3 in those games.
The Musketeers’ 0-4 mark against the Top 25 might also raise red flags for fans, especially since the Crosstown Shootout against the University of Cincinnati, as well as the remainder of the Big East schedule, will offer several more games against ranked opponents.
Xavier looks to get back on track at 2 p.m. on Sunday, against the Georgetown Hoyas at the Cintas Center.