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Prepare To Be Ranked: Marquette 75, #20 Xavier 64

The Golden Eagles and the Musketeers played one of the best college basketball games that you’ll see this season with the home team coming away with their sixth straight win.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette
12 points and two steals for Kam Jones against Xavier, but they were a BIG 12 points.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with the most important part: Sunday afternoon’s contest at Fiserv Forum is why you love to have your team in the Big East, because sometimes things come together and you get a barn burner of a basketball game like that one.

I’d say that even if I didn’t get to say the next sentence: Behind a 20 point, 13 rebound double-double from Justin Lewis, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles nabbed their sixth straight win in league play by knocking off the #20 ranked Xavier, 75-64. Marquette is now 14-6 overall and 6-3 in Big East play after an 0-3 start, while XU drops to 14-4 overall and 4-3 in the league.

I don’t even know where to start with this game. It’s hard to recap an awesome basketball game. You never need to talk about every single play and every single run, you have to pick it up somewhere..... but Marquette and Xavier were pretty evenly matched for the first 20 minutes at the very least. Two teams, pretty evenly matched, even if one side had that #20 ranking next to their name at the start of the day.

It looked like Marquette was on their way to busting the game open around the seven minute mark. Darryl Morsell gave Marquette a five point lead on a pair of freebies and a Justin Lewis three about a minute later put the Golden Eagles up eight, 24-16. Flash forward two more minutes and another triple from Marquette’s leading scorer and it was 29-20 Golden Eagles with 4:32 to play.

But Xavier got to where they are in the AP poll by rolling with things on occasion. Paul Scruggs popped the ball away from MU’s Tyler Kolek and found Nate Johnson for a layup to start off a closing stretch to the half that favored Xavier 9-4, and thus it was 33-29 at the break.

That turned into 15-6 bridging halftime and the final bucket, a dunk in transition by Colby Jones, knotted the thing at 35 each and prompted a timeout from Shaka Smart. Not a “WHAT DID WE TALK ABOUT IN THE LOCKER ROOM” timeout like we’ve seen a few times this season, but a “okay, let’s pour some cold water on this game right now” timeout.

MU answered immediately with a three-pointer from Tyler Kolek, his only long range make of the game, and this thing officially turned into a battle at the 18:16 mark. Xavier got a chance to push the lead to five on a Jack Nunge three-pointer, a real beauty of a shot from the big man, but Morsell immediately answered on the other end and then hit an elbow J on MU’s next possession to even the game at 53 apiece.

Morsell’s five straight suddenly turned into 10 straight for the Golden Eagles to put them up five, 58-53, but Jerome Hunter hit a three for the X-Men, and things stayed tight. Points here, points there, stops here, stops there. Kam Jones defied all known laws of physics with a layup after picking Paul Scruggs’ pocket (see above for a still) and the Golden Eagles were up five with 7:58 to go.

Lewis scored to make it seven, but he was answered by Scruggs, who was in turn answered by Oso Ighodaro of all freaking people, who hit for his first basket of the game with 5:43 to go to put Marquette up 66-59. 90 seconds later, Ighodaro was muscling up a dunk through traffic to put the Golden Eagles up eight. But seriously: These were his only two baskets of the game and they absolutely could not have come at better times.

And then Marquette went quiet for a stretch. It’s the most nervewracking point of the game, the spot where you feel that if your team just gets one more basket, this thing is over. But MU just could not do it. It turns out that’s fine, because yeah, this isn’t a perfectly humming offensive team..... but it is a perfectly humming defensive team. All Xavier managed during MU’s offensive lull was two free throws from Adam Kunkel. Eventually, Morsell said “the hell with this” and scored a picture perfect “I am a fifth year senior on a grad transfer bonus season and there is no chance we are losing this effing game” basket with 1:17 to go to make it an eight point game.

Still didn’t feel 100% safe, though, but that’s partially a belief in Xavier to be a good basketball team. When Paul Scruggs missed two freebies to give everyone in Fiserv free fries from Shake Shack? Definitely feeling better about it, and THEN Marquette put together one of the wildest “we’re going to keep the ball moving because they are trying to trap and force a turnover” possession that you will ever see. Slightly off-kilter passes going long distances, Marquette constantly throwing to a wide open guy to the near shock of everyone to realize how wide open said guy was as well as how the passer saw them and then, finally, with the shot clock starting to dip into danger zone, the rainbowiest of rainbow three-pointers from Kam Jones. My god, the absolute set of stones on that kid to fire that shot and also drain it like nothing to put Marquette up 73-62.

Marquette got beat down the court for a layup, but the Golden Eagles are a trapping team themselves and they easily defeated XU’s attempts to contain them for a turnover. Eventually in the halfcourt, it ended up with Darryl Morsell, and he sent everyone home with a pair of swishes.

What a great game. What a great event. What a great atmosphere. What a great sport.

Lewis’ 20 points (7-14 from the field, 4-7 from the arc) and 13 rebounds were both game highs, while Kolek and Morsell both tied for the game high in assists with seven. Marquette finished the game with 21 assists on 29 makes, and damn if that isn’t awesome. Morsell, Jones, and Stevie Mitchell all had two steals, while Kur Kuath got two blocks to tie Faisal Abraham for the ninth most swats in any Marquette season in program history.

How about some highlights, courtesy of and Fox Sports?

Up Next: Who wants to see Marquette win seven in a row? They’ll get their shot on Wednesday night out in Newark when they face off against Seton Hall in a return bout from the 73-72 MU victory on January 15th. The Pirates are 12-5 and 3-4 in Big East play right now after beating St. John’s at The Garden on Saturday, but they have a Monday night rematch with the Johnnies at Walsh Gym on campus between now and Wednesday.