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Revenge Gained, Part 2: Marquette 81, Xavier 72

The new round robin format affords Marquette the chance to avenge losses from their first time through the league, and they're 2 for 2 on those chances.

Somehow, this is the only useable picture of Jake from this game.
Somehow, this is the only useable picture of Jake from this game.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Here's the thing: Marquette looked great in their win over Xavier on Saturday. The offense looked like it was flowing well, and depending on how you look at things, the defense looked like it was causing havoc for the Musketeers.

But that's the visual, that's the eye test part of things. If you hadn't been paying attention to college basketball this season and were flipping channels and landed on Fox on Saturday afternoon, and someone told you that Marquette was picked to win the Big East this season, your response would have been "oh, sure, that makes sense."

Yet, if you have been paying attention this season, the first thought in your head has to be "Marquette can't do that again, can they?"

For example:

  • Jake Thomas was an NBA Jam character come to life, burying six of his 10 attempts behind the three point arc for a Marquette career high of 18 points.
  • Overall, Marquette shot 9-18 behind the three point arc, and 46.2% from the field.
  • Marquette forced Xavier into 19 turnovers, and scored 27 points on those takeaways.
  • Marquette got to the free throw line 27 times, burying 24 of their freebies.
  • After he had a career high 28 points in their first match up, Marquette held Semaj Christon to just 10 points in this contest, and he didn't even have a made field goal until late in the first half after he had picked up two fouls.

Those are the good things that happened. There are noticeable problems with Marquette's performance in the game that are easily masked by their red hot shooting and Xavier's turnovers.

For example:

  • When Xavier got a chance to shoot the ball, it usually went in, as they shot 54.2% for the game.
  • When it didn't go in, the Musketeers usually got the offensive rebound. They had 16 grabs on the offensive end, which led to 20 second chance points.
  • Actually, Xavier had some industrial strength Windex on both ends of the court, outrebounding Marquette 32-20. Of MU's 20 rebounds, nine came on the defensive end.
  • We’re duty-bound to note that the freshmen were totally forgotten yesterday, as Deonte Burton and Jajuan Johnson got a combined five minutes of run and John Dawson was a DNP-Coach’s Decision.

So it might have been the best that Marquette's looked all season. Can they do that again? Can they do that again six, or seven, or eight more times? If Jake Thomas can hit his first three of the game, Marquette might be on to something here. Friend of Show Dan Maciejewski wondered aloud on Twitter whether Jake shot better in games where he made his first 3-point look. After looking at a dozen box scores, it certainly appears that’s the case: leaving out games where Thomas only attempted a couple threes (or one, or none), Jake made his first 3-point attempt in the games where he shot the best (both games vs. Xavier, at Georgetown, vs. New Mexico, against St. John’s). In the games where he shot the worst (vs. Ohio State, both games against Seton Hall, vs. Providence, vs. Butler at home), he missed his first 3-point attempt. The only exceptions to the rule: his 5-12 shooting against Arizona State, where Thomas missed his first three looks, and the roadie at Butler, where he made his first 3-point attempt and then proceeded to miss his next seven.

It’s, of course, highly reductive to couch the issue as "Thomas shoots best when he makes his first look" (and, if we’re going to be overly reductive about things, maybe we should go with "Jake Thomas just isn’t a great basketball player," but we’ve said that enough times this year already), but it’s something.

Jae Crowder Player of the Game: You have to have a balanced team to be effective on offense. You have to be able to keep defenders honest to get the kind of spacing on the floor that you need and/or want. When Jake Thomas is hitting shots like he was in this one, Marquette's offense suddenly gets very dangerous. It's his best game in blue & gold, and it'd be rude not to give him the Crowder for his 60% effort from distance.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Derrick Wilson is quietly becoming ruthlessly efficient. Nine points on 4-8 shooting, three rebounds, four assists, no turnovers, and a career high six steals. He had just two free throws attempted in the game, but he split the pair with a little more than four minutes left in the game, right after Myles Davis had cut the lead to six. DW is not a strong free throw shooter (49.2% on the year), and it was a big moment where he needed to at least get the split. It's also worth noting that Derrick spent most of his 39 minutes on the court chasing Christon all over God's creation.

Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: Nothing stands out to me, but I'll give this to Davante Gardner himself for his two free throws with 1:22 remaining. Xavier had cut the lead to just four points on a Justin Martin triple, and with the "AU-TO-MAT-IC" chant raining down, Ox buried the pair to cement Marquette's two possession cushion for the remainder of the contest.

Up Next: Creighton (21-4, 11-2) comes to town on Wednesday night, fresh off their second #BEATEMDOWN of Villanova on the season.