When these two teams met at Marquette earlier this season, what took place was hardly a dazzling display of outside shooting as both squads shot below 25% from three on the day. It follows, then, that in the dizzying, unpredictable world that has become this Big East season, that the two teams would serve up an absolute clinic on perimeter scoring as Xavier won their second barnburner in a week.
It was probably a harbinger of things to come when Haanif Cheatham and Trevon Bluiett exchanged threes to begin the contest, which would be defined by both teams' ability to find the net from long range. Xavier rode hot starts from Bluiett, Edmond Summer, and JP Macura, all stars on the day, to a 19-12 lead 7 minutes in, with those three combining for 15 of the points and 3-3 three point shooting.
Basically as soon as Xavier fought to an early advantage, Marquette would come roaring back, ripping off a 17-1 run over the next 5 minutes to grab the largest margin either team would enjoy all day at 9 points with 8:39 left on the clock. Only a timely Edmond Sumner three would stop the bleeding, but a 7-9 shooting stretch combined with Xavier's struggles on offense had the Golden Eagles thinking they might just escape Cincy with a win.
Throughout the rest of the half, Xavier would chip away to try to make the lead manageable by halftime. Another Sumner three would have it back to one possession at 35-32 at the final media timeout, and Trevon Bluiett's three would cut it to 2, but a Henry Ellenson layup and 2 scoreless minutes before the half sent Xavier in down 4 and not necessarily in control of the momentum. Marquette had come out on fire, and Xavier had to find enough stops to regain control after halftime.
The opening exchanges of the half would go Xavier's way as threes from JP Macura and Trevon Bluiett would tie the game by the first media timeout. Also encouraging was that, after stagnating for 5 minutes in the first half, Xavier assisted their first 4 makes of the second frame in the early going, a streak that would eventually stretch to 6 in a row. However, the last two would come as Xavier once again tried to rally from behind after another three point barrage, those one from Duane Wilson, Ellenson, and JuJuan Johnson, put them back down by 4 at the second media timeout. So far Marquette had taken the punch, but Xavier wasn't done dishing them out just yet.
With 9:43 left to play, Marquette's touted lottery pick freshman Henry Ellenson hit a jumper to make the score 61-54 and Xavier looked to be in real trouble. Luckily, Xavier's own freshman Kaiser Gates responded with a three to keep Xavier in touching distance, which would prove to be the spark it took to get the Musketeers rolling. After a pair of Ellenson free throws, it was Jalen Reynolds in the paint to cut it to four. JP Macura would follow that with a pair of free throws and then Gates would tie it with a resounding stick back dunk from a Myles Davis miss. Next Macura would fire Xavier into their first lead of the second half with 7:16 to play, before his lay in with 5:40 left would push it to 4. Xavier was back in control, now it was time to close the game out.
Myles Davis got it off to a promising start by nailing a three to stake X to a 5 point lead with 5 minutes to play. A minute and 10 seconds later, Cheatham would tie the game at 72, a tie that JP Macura would break with a three. Cheatham would come back with a three point play, but Macura would not be denied his heroics, and drained another three to give Xavier a lead with 2:55 to play that they would never relenquish. Myles made a floater and 4-6 from the line and Bluiett, in one of his best performances in the Xavier uniform, would score the games final four points from the line. It is perhaps not comforting that Xavier needed 36 points in the final 9:23 to win this one, but it is hard not to be thrilled they got it.