With 2:33 to play last night, vaunted hero ball practitioner Andrew Rowsey completed a personal 8-2 run to pull the Marquette Golden Eagles back level with Xavier. From that point on, it was going to be about making big shots, who could get stops, and who could execute their stuff with the game on the line. Once again, it was Coach Chris Mack’s team that was able to bear down and get the job.
This game had gone back and forth all night. With Xavier up 74-72 and Marquette’s leading scorer Markus Howard on a free run to the rim to tie, JP Macura appeared from nowhere ala LeBron James in Game Seven and pinned the attempted layup. That sequence came after the Marquette student section had attempted to rile the Big East’s provocateur in chief with a series of gator chomps as he shot free throws. That, of course, didn’t work, but it did turn the level of tension in this game up to the point it felt like it belonged being played on a weekend late in March. Rowsey, who spent the second half attempting to wildly gun JP into silence, tied it and things were truly raucous.
With 1:56 to go, JP got free for a layup off a feed from Trevon Bluiett, who struggled with his jumper all night. Markus Howard missed a contested shot at the rim to make Marquette 0-1 and Naji Marshall grabbed the board. On Xavier’s possession, Bluiett made (ahem) a great move to draw the defense and found Kaiser Gates for a three. Xavier’s lead was five and the announcer correctly noted that the Musketeers were warming up. Marquette’s next trip was a missed three from Rowsey (0-2), but two converted free throws from Hauser. Xavier led by three.
Marquette then got the stop they needed, but Xavier’s defense was clicking in to Zip Em Up mode. Marquette was denied twice the next time down the floor to go to 0-4 from the field with the game on the line. On the next trip, Quentin Goodin was sent to the line and made them both. When Rowsey tied the game, Xavier’s chances of the win were 46.8%, when the second of Goodin’s free throws dropped, it was 96.1%.
Marquette was still in miracle mode, but they missed again and then missed a free throw. There is no stopping Marquette for an entire game, they are going to get theirs, but when it came down to winning time, Xavier put the clamps to them. The Golden Eagles were 0-5 from the floor and 2-3 from the line from the moment they tied the game until Xavier’s winning percentage hit 100% with two Trevon Bluiett free throws at 19 seconds left.
In that same time, Xavier shot 2-4 from the field and 4-4 from the line. When it came winning time, Steve Wojciechowski had nothing in the bag other than continuing to gun. Xavier ran a back door set for a layup, a fade for a three, and then attacked weak defenders to get to the line. With the game on the line, it was Coach Mack’s will drilled offense and defense that carried the day.