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The Quick & The Dirty: Marquette 85, Xavier 65

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The Golden Eagles left no doubt about this one in a victory that they really needed.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette men’s basketball headed into Wednesday night’s contest against Xavier at 1-3 in Big East play, a far cry from where the Golden Eagles would have wanted to be at this point. They also went into it without backup guard Greg Elliott, who was still sidelined with an ankle injury suffered against Providence, as well as without reserve forward Ed Morrow. The redshirt senior big man was announced as taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team shortly before tipoff.

So: 1) In need of a win, 2) playing a team also at 1-3 and thus also in need of a win, and 3) doing it shorthanded.

Turns out, none of that mattered in the slightest, except I guess the “in need of a win” part.

Marquette played a superb 40 minute game of basketball at Fiserv Forum, all the way from Theo John scoring on MU’s opening possession to walk-on Brendan Carney draining a triple on a superb pass from fellow walk-on Michael Kennedy, and the Golden Eagles walked away with an 85-65 victory over the Musketeers. 2-3 sounds and feels much better than 1-4, that’s for sure.

Sorry/not sorry, Banners on the Parkway.

If we’re being honest and fair to Xavier, then we have to say that the first 14 minutes of the game merely looked and felt like a very good college basketball game. Sure, Marquette was up and leading for the majority of it, as the Golden Eagles took the lead for good with 18:37 to play in the first half. But while it seemed that Marquette was on the verge of breaking the game open, the Musketeers did enough through the first 14 minutes to stop that from happening. With 6:30 to go in the half, Xavier’s Zach Freemantle sank a pair of free throws, and it was a four point Marquette lead, 28-24.

Xavier would score eight more points in the time left in the half for a perfectly respectable 32 at the break. Marquette? Yeah, they racked up 16 more, giving them 44 and a 12 point lead heading to the locker room.

The Musketeers said “hey, we thought this was a competition” in the first few minutes of the second half, and before you knew it, Tyrique Jones converted an and-1 and bang: seven point game, 46-39, with 18:19 left to play.

THUS BEGINNETH THE RUN.

Markus Howard opened it up with a jumper, to put the lead at nine. By the time Howard scored a layup after a Jayce Johnson offensive rebound — and if this is the one I’m remembering, then Howard had a clear path down Main Street for this layup — the lead was 22, 61-39. That’s a 15-0 run for the Golden Eagles, and they burned over five minutes of clock to do it.

The lead wobbled back underneath 20 just once for the rest of the game. Paul Scruggs canned a three — the only one of the night for XU’s only competent long range shooter — with 7:19 to go that made the lead 17. Symir Torrence scored a second chance bucket with 4:45 to play to get it back to 20, and that was that.

Howard was the leading scorer on the night, tallying 35 points on 12-for-27 shooting that ends up looking better when I tell you that he had an effective field goal percentage of 53.7% on the night thanks to his long range shooting, even though that wasn’t very effective. However, for me, the big story of the night was the rebounding. Sure, Xavier did their part by missing 41 shots in the game, and thus created a whole bunch of rebounds. But seven Golden Eagles finished the game with at least four rebounds, which is a hell of a thing. Marquette grabbed up 44% of whatever few misses they had on the night, and on the other end, they did a number on Xavier’s offensive glass cleaning. That’s literally XU’s only strength on offense, and MU held them to just 26% of their misses on this night. Considering that Tyrique Jones is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country and best rebounders in general, the fact that MU held him to just six rebounds on the night in 24 minutes is a fantastic accomplishment. Even more impressive is the fact that Jayce Johnson and Theo John did that while grabbing 15 rebounds between them while working without Morrow chipping in at the five off the bench.

In terms of #2OtherGuys watch, Sacar Anim had 12 points along with a team high eight rebounds, Theo John (!) had 10 to go with his seven rebounds, and Koby McEwen snagged 10 points of his own. If you can get 32 from three non-Howard players, generally speaking, things are probably going to work out pretty well for Marquette.

How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com?

Up Next: Marquette heads back out on the road for their next game as the Golden Eagles search for their first road win in Big East play. They’ll be in D.C. to face Georgetown on Saturday, and the Hoyas moved to 2-3 themselves with an 83-80 victory over #25 Creighton on Wednesday night.