What happened: Xavier 64 - Marquette 44
This game was all about defense for Xavier, particularly the team's growing affinity for the 1-3-1 zone. After allowing 16 points in the first 7:26 of the game - mostly on nearly uncontested looks from right at the rim - Xavier tightened up the defense. Coach Mack first put the Muskies in a zone with about 5:30 left in the first half and stuck with it for the most part for the rest of the game. Xavier responded by surrendering just 28 points on Marquette's final 51 possessions. Marquette opened the game shooting 8-14/0-1/0-0 and then shot 10-38/3-14/5-12 the rest of the way. Can you zip an opponent up for half an hour, or is it just whipping a worse team at that point?
Xavier's rebounding was refreshingly dominant as well. Marquette only grabbed a quarter of their own misses despite Xavier's being in a zone for most of the night, and the Muskies posted a very good 39.4% OReb% of their own. Being able to put 500 pounds of big man on the floor at any given time certainly helped Xavier in this department, and the ability to keep possessions alive on the glass redeemed a frankly poor shooting night.
All this zone defense and rebounding allowed Coach Mack to play JP Macura more, and everyone's favorite towheaded agitator responded with 11/3/1 on 4-8/3-6/0-0 shooting. After he reeled off a 1-18 streak from behind the arc, it was nice to see him splashing multiple threes in a single game. His length at the top of the 1-3-1 is a problem for opposing guards, especially coupled with his ability to read and throw himself into passing lanes.
Can we talk about Dee Davis for a second? In a game that saw only one other Muskie - Trevon Bluiett - get even half an hour of playing time, Dee played for 38 minutes, marking the third time in a week he got at least that much playing time. I know he's a vital cog in the machine, but he plainly didn't have it last night (2/5/5 on 1-4/0-0/0-2 shooting, 6 TO) and he frankly looked exhausted. The game was well in hand for most of the second half; is there a scenario in which Dee gets a breather if he didn't last night?
Trevon Bluiett was in good form for the second straight game, tallying a game-high 14/6/1 on 5-9/2-4/2-2 shooting. His full game was on display; he knocked down long jumpers and three-pointers, got great position on the offensive glass and helped himself to some stickbacks, and drove the lane to score. He got the start at the four last night as Xavier went small from the tip; it will be interesting to see how serious Coach Mack is about that lineup going forward.
It was not a good night for Xavier's usual big men as Matt Stainbrook and Jalen Reynolds combined to shoot 6-20. Matt redeemed it a little by going 7-9 from the line and grabbing 6 boards and 3 assists while Jalen had 9 rebounds and a technical foul. It was an even worse night for James Farr, who didn't get in until midway through the second half and tallied only 4 minutes.
Sean O'Mara had 9 minutes of playing time and put up a very respectable 4/1/2 with a steal and a block. He played tough defense on Luke Fischer, who was not strong enough to get good position on Sean. The 3 fouls in 9 minutes of playing time gives O'Mara something to work on going forward, but he made a good showing last night.
Odds and ends:
-Xavier shot 6-15 from deep as a team; it would be very clutch if they could get their shooting touch back.
-X had 15 assists on 21 made baskets.
-Larry Austin, Jr. had a two-minute cameo; Brandon Randolph continues to be MIA.
-Myles went sleeveless under his jersey and shot 2-7/0-4/6-6; I hope he goes back to sleeves.
That's it from me. On to St. John's.