"Jake Thomas made Three Point Jumper." That's how ESPN's play by play tells the story of this game. That one, in particular, is copied from 15:43 to play in the first half, which is when Marquette took the lead in this game for good. Jake Thomas went 6-10 from deep, taking only one obligatory field goal that wasn't a three, and torched Xavier for 18 points. For the game, the Golden Eagles were 9-18 from deep. Teams are now scoring 35.1% of their points against the Musketeers from behind the arc, a number that is both terribly alarming and the entire story of this game, all in one.
Xavier led the game 6-4 after two buckets from Matt Stainbrook (12/5/1) and one from Justin Martin (20/7/1). When Jake Thomas buried that first three, Xavier never sniffed the lead again despite shooting 54.2% from the floor, dominating the glass, and outscoring their opponent in the second half. How is that possible? Well, Xavier turned the ball over an appalling 19 times, committed 22 fouls, and somehow managed to give up 81 points to a team that had recently not even managed to crack 60 against Butler. Butler!
Xavier come into this game needing to take advantage of Marquette's weaknesses in order to set themselves up for the stretch run. Instead, there was no response to going behind. The Musketeers fell behind in this game and then just...lost. That's not to say there wasn't effort, there was, but it is to say that Xavier never really threatened to make something of the contest. Coach Mack said after the game that it felt like Marquette had a counter for every attack he planned (something that suggests that maybe Marquette actually prepared for the game), but Xavier executed so poorly on offense it's hard to say what the attack really was. Justin Martin was excellent, but he scores in the flow of offense, not as a focal point of it. Matt Stainbrook was derailed by foul trouble, Semaj Christon (10/4/6) turned the ball over five times, and the Xavier's other four forwards (Philmore, Stenger, Reynolds, Farr) combined for 11 points.
It wasn't just the scoring that was an issue, it was the ball security. Marquette scored 27 points off of the 19 turnovers Xavier committed. Only against UC, in a total rout, have the Musketeers turned the ball over more than the 31.7% of the time they did against the Golden Eagles. That, of course, blunted any chance of a Xavier comeback. After trailing by 10 at the half, the Muskies pulled within six, then Dee Davis turned it over and the lead was back to 11. After cutting the deficit to five again with 10:46 to play, back to back turnovers from Christon and Davis and, of course, three pointers from Marquette put Xavier back down by 13.
Xavier cut the lead back under double digits, then turned it over. Marquette's three point barrage finally ended when Jake Thomas missed from deep with 1:40 to play to make the Golden Eagles 6-9 in the second half. In that decisive half the Musketeers made seven more field goals than Marquette and so, despite a complete disaster of a game, were within four with 1:40 to play. Then, the last storyline came into play. Isaiah Philmore (5/2/0) missed a layup and then was called for Xavier's 20th foul in the ensuing scrum for the rebound. How Philmore fouled Davante Gardner when Gardner was laying on his back is open to debate, but the fact remains that Xavier was outrageously sloppy in yet another aspect of the game.
And that pretty much ended the contest. Marquette made free throws down the stretch, Xavier missed jumpers that the Golden Eagles knew they had to take, and a great chance for a win went by the wayside in a game that was painfully ugly to watch. Xavier now faces DePaul at home, trips to Georgetown and St. John's, Creighton at home, a final road game at Seton Hall, and then the Big East finale against Villanova at the Cintas. It's hard to feel right now, like any of those are a sure thing.
- Can Xavier exploit a rebounding advantage? Xavier gathered 12 more rebounds on the game, pulled in 16 offensive boards, and scored 20 second chance points. None of that matters though, if turn the ball over 19 times and insist on trading two for three every time down the floor.
- Whose secondary scorers will show up? Jake Thomas came in averaging exactly seven points per game, he went for 18. Todd Mayo also went over his average and got 13. Xavier's bench wasn't terrible, with both Jalen Reynolds (6/7/0) and Myles Davis (12/3/1) playing good games. Again though, the damage done by Thomas was more than enough to swing this Marquette's way.
- Can Xavier shake the road woes? X has lost eight games this year, seven of them away from home. Yes, the Cintas and the students are a boost to the team, but surely some of that talent gets on the bus to go to away games. Tournament games aren't played at home, so this one needs fixed.
- Is anyone scouting? Coach Mack said after the game that Thomas was knocking down shots he just doesn't take on film. That's just not true. Jake Thomas is a three point shooter. That is, almost literally, all he does. Thomas has shot only 22 times from inside the arc this year, his other 128 efforts have come from deep. Somehow, Xavier lost him on ten occasions and Thomas knocked down six of them. Only two other times this season has Thomas taken double digit three point attempts. One of those was the last time he played Xavier, when he went 5-12. Someone on the coaching staff made a grievous error in game planning this one.
Tweet of the game:
@BannersParkway James Farr is still on the team, right?— Nick Sciria (@kd4mvp35) February 15, 2014
@BannersParkway I'm just confused why we didn't see Farr? He might not be a good defensive player but he could be a spark offensively.— Matthew Brannon (@mattbrannon21) February 15, 2014
I bleed Xavier blue thru good and bad times!— James Farr (@JFarr2) February 16, 2014
I have no idea on this one.