Written By: Jake Geiger, Staff Writer
Xavier ended their regular season campaign in a disappointing fashion, falling to the Marquette Golden Eagles 66-59 at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. With its win, Marquette improved to 13-13 and 8-11 in the Big East, while Xavier fell to 13-7 and 6-7 in the Big East. The Musketeers are now at risk of missing March Madness, according to several bracketologists.
Xavier adjusted the starting lineup on Saturday, inserting freshman wing C.J. Wilcher for senior forward Jason Carter. The Musketeers fell behind early in the game and never held the lead during the contest.
Marquette began the game with a 10-3 run and led 17-7 with about eight minutes left in the first half. Heading into halftime, the Eagles held a solid 32-24 lead.
Xavier started the second half red hot by going on a 14-6 run and tying the game at 36 apiece. Xavier could not keep their momentum, though, and Marquette stormed back to take a seven point lead with seven minutes left. Xavier had one final push, only trailing 60-59 with under a minute left, but Marquette scored seven unanswered to win 66-59.
Xavier senior guard Paul Scruggs had 18 points, six rebounds and three assists to lead the charge for the Musketeers. Junior guard Adam Kunkel had 11 points off the bench and Wilcher added 10 points in his first career start.
Sophomore forward Freemantle had a quiet game with just eight points and six rebounds as he struggled with foul trouble throughout the game. The loss to Marquette ended Freemantle’s six game streak of double-doubles, as he failed to reach double digits in both points and rebounds. Senior forward Bryan Griffin also gave Xavier a nice spark with three points, four rebounds and one block in just nine minutes of action.
Marquette had a very balanced scoring attack led by sophomore guard D.J. Carton, who scored 16 points and added seven rebounds. Senior forward Jamal Cain had 13 points and seven rebounds to assist Carton, while freshman big man Dawson Garcia had 11 points and seven rebounds himself. Marquette junior guard Greg Elliott had 12 points and two three-pointers off the bench.
Xavier’s achilles heel in the game was the three-point shot, as the team only made four of their attempted 24 shots.
The Musketeers now head into the Big East Tournament as the sixth seed, having lost five of their seven previous games. According to bracketologists, Xavier needs a strong showing in the Big East Tournament to feel comfortable about making the tournament on Selection Sunday. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi called Xavier his “last team in” for the NCAA tournament, while TeamRankings says the Musketeers have a mere 26% chance to make March Madness.
Xavier faces the Butler Bulldogs this Wednesday at 6 p.m. If Xavier wins, they will face the number three seed in the Big East Tournament, Creighton, on Thursday at 6 p.m. Semifinals for the tournament are at 6 and 9 p.m. on Friday, and the championship game will follow on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.