We can focus on Marquette in a bit. First, that was a spectacular game to watch. Both teams clearly gave their best shot and never backed down when the other gave a punch. Well, except for J.P. Macura after The Phantom Kick. Regardless, that was really exciting to watch and the fact that Marquette was right in it until the very end makes me feel good about the rest of the season.
In the first half, Marquette was annoying on defense. I mean this positively. They were getting in passing lanes on defense and forcing turnovers. Jamal Cain also tried to dunk on the entire state of Ohio so hard that it would’ve set that river in Cleveland on fire again. It was just a little awkward on offense towards the end with Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey both on the bench with fouls. Xavier threw that 1-3-1 zone on top of that and the offense looked as discombobulated as JP Macura when he mooned that bartender.
Then, Jamal Cain just about saved the game. Look at this stat line. 16 points, 4/6 from three, 4 rebounds, 4 steals (!!!!!), 2 blocks. I think I saw some hairs grow on his upper lip as the game went on. Xavier dared Cain to take those open corners threes and he stared right back, gripped his balls, and sunk them. It killed the zone that Marquette couldn’t drive through otherwise. His performance was like the birth of Jesus to Andrew Rowsey’s Resurrection. One doesn’t happen without the other.
Rowsey overall was a stud. He really clamped down on defense. He saw that Macura might be the more annoying white guy in the Big East and was not about to go down without a fight. He didn’t let J.P. No Sleeves get an inch and was yapping at him at every possible moment. And it absolutely worked. Macura went 5-of-12 from the floor, 1-of-3 from deep, and had some passes and steal attempts that made it clear he was frustrated.
If I told you that Rowsey would go 6-of-17 from deep, you’d roll your eyes and say he played hero ball. He kind of did by the end, but he earned it. He made some tough shots from inside the arc, going 5-of-7 from there. He about made up for Markus Howard’s...subpar performance. About that....
Howard went 6-of-19 from the floor and 1-of-8 from three point land with 4 turnovers as well. That won’t do it. He’s earned the fans’ trust that he’ll come out and perform well on your average game, but he has had a couple stinkers that will make you take a second to convince yourself that he’s great.
Quick notes about other players, I thought Harry Froling was a monster on the boards and looks decently comfortable playing on the low block. He had 8 boards, 5 (!!!!!) from the offensive end. Sam Hauser had 12 points, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), and 7 assists. Yawn. Greg Elliott was Greg Elliott and John had some nice post moves.
Finally, before the bad stuff, shoutout to the offensive rebounding as a whole tonight. I touched on Froling, but they grabbed almost a third of their misses against a team that only lets you get a quarter of them. Excellent job there.
Defensively, I thought they played fine-ish. They held the Musketeers to a 56.6% effective field goal percentage, which is below their season average, but still not that good. XU made 24 of their 39 twos, though, including 13 of 18 in the second half. That’s really not going to get it done if they’re only going to turn them over about 14% of the time for the whole game (national average is about 19%). Quentin Goodin should not have walked out with only one turnover. Those couple extra easy drives are what make the difference in a game decided by two possessions.
You will never ever ever hear me say that a player does or does not have a clutch gene. David Ortiz had a Clutch Score of -1.17 for his career. People only think of the moments they remember. But it can be noted that Marquette went cold from the field to end the game. Howard missed a couple bunnies, Rowsey an open three. It happens. They lost because Xavier is, and played like, a better team. Not because of something like...
The refs. Yes, they had bad calls. No, I can’t remember any ones that went Marquette’s way because I’m not going to notice something that falls in my favor since I probably thought I deserved the good fortune. There was a five point swing that started with a no call. It drained the crowd for like 30 seconds until Rowsey hit a three and then the momentum was magically over. I don’t want to hear about how they lost us the game. Teams adjust and recover to the point where one or two calls have a minuscule effect.
I know we want to relish in how well Marquette played against a top 10 team and I truly hate being that guy, but the loss still has tournament implications in that they did not necessarily move up. At some point, they do need to beat a team that they “shouldn’t” beat, and those opportunities will dwindle faster than you think. I know as much as you do that a 4 point game can swing either way, but it’s not about what I want. It’s about what’s fair.