Marquette outlasts Xavier 87-82
It was almost a perfect Saturday afternoon for the Xavier Musketeers as they battled #12 Marquette in the Cintas Center. Despite the end result, the Musketeers gave a spirited performance in their brand new Runningman jerseys in front of an energized home crowd. Markus Howard and company were able to outgun a Xavier attack led by Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, and Tyrique Jones.
The game started with a lot of energy in the building as the student section came out the gate ready for a battle. And to say the least, Xavier came out swinging but Marquette kept retaliating. The Musketeers were hot from the field, shooting 73% in the first 9 minutes of the game. Xavier attacked the rim, and junior big man Tyrique Jones overmatched the Golden Eagle frontcourt. Paul Scruggs added some firepower from the 3 point line, and led Xavier to a 28-21 lead about midway through the first half. After a Marquette timeout, Xavier went a little cold and Marquette stayed aggressive on the offensive end. The remainder of the first half was a battle, with both teams heading into the locker room tied at the half.
To start the second half, Xavier started off hot once again. Paul Scruggs remained in his element, finishing the game with 21 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. The lead for Xavier extended to 58-47 with 11 minutes left into the game. Both teams went back and forth for the next 5 minutes, with Markus Howard starting to find his groove on the offensive end. With under 8 minutes left in the game, Xavier was up 67-61 and seemed to be in full control of the game.
But alas, Marquette showed why they are a top 15 team in the country with a quick 8-0 run to take the lead with 4 minutes left in the game. Falling behind, Xavier became stagnant on offensive and could not take back the lead. Marquette sealed the game with some clutch free throws, led by Markus Howard who finished the game with 31 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Although Xavier played their tails off, it wasn't enough to beat the hot-shooting Golden Eagles.
Despite the loss, Xavier has proved once again that they can play with any team in the Big East. However, the major theme that continually occurs is that the Musketeers find periods of time in the game where the ball stops on the offensive end, allowing for runs on the other side of the court. Xavier has shown that they have enough talent with a nucleus of Scruggs, Marshall, and Jones. However, Xavier will need more consistency and depth from their bench to close these marquee games.
The Musketeers play next against Georgetown this Thursday at 8:00 pm in Washington D.C. Here's to a potential sweep of the Hoyas!