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Win Anyway: #11 Marquette 69, #16 Xavier 68

The Golden Eagles didn’t shoot it well, but they made the buckets they needed and got the rebounds they needed to take control of the Big East standings.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette
This was OMax’s first basket of the game, which came with 30 seconds left.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

holy goddamned hell

Marquette men’s basketball needed a lot on Wednesday night. They needed a big game from Stevie Mitchell. They needed a big game from Oso Ighodaro. They needed some tough buckets from David Joplin. They needed the energy and enthusiasm and just straight up noise from the 16,041 in attendance at Fiserv Forum. Finally, they needed a big final five minutes from Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who gathered up his only rebound of the entire final 20 minutes to stick back a missed layup by Kam Jones to finish with all seven of his points in the game after halftime.

That putback was Prosper’s second bucket of the game and his second of the final 30 seconds as well as his third rebound of the game and only rebound of the entire second half.

It was enough. That pushed Marquette to 69 points with less than two seconds to go, and Jack Nunge’s desperation three at the horn missed badly. Your final, from Milwaukee: #11 Marquette 69, #16 Xavier 68. Marquette is now 21-6 on the season and 13-3 in Big East play. The Golden Eagles have a one game lead in the loss column and a two game lead in the win column over the trio of Creighton, Xavier, and Providence in a three-way tie for second at 11-4.

I’ll say it plainly: Marquette is now in control of their destiny for a Big East regular season title, and they will be sole champions if they run the table in their final four games.

For a good long while in the first half, it looked like Marquette wasn’t going to get there. After getting two kills — three consecutive stops — on the Musketeers early in the game, the visitors went on a tear. 17-2 in favor of Xavier, coming to rest with XU up 19-6 with just under nine minutes left in the first half.

And then the Fiserv Forum crowd took over. Sure, Marquette wasn’t missing shots — they were shooting under 20% in the game at one point in the run — but they also weren’t really letting Xavier run wild. Yeah, it was a 13 point game, but it’s not like the Musketeers looked that great on their end. The crowd vociferously stood up and said “hey, we’ve got you guys right now,” and the team responded. A dunk from Oso Ighodaro got it to single digits. A three from Kam Jones made it six. Stevie Mitchell, on his way to a team high 17 points and a game MVP award, swiped it from XU’s Souley Boum, and scored on the other end in transition. 21-17, 4:32 to play, and it’s like that 13 point lead never happened.

Tyler Kolek scored in transition with 1:40 to play in the half to pull Marquette within two, and that’s as close as they could get in the first half. A last second sideline out of bounds play for Xavier was run to perfection for a dunk for Colby Jones, and the visiting Musketeers led 28-24 at intermission.

As you can tell from that score through 20 minutes, neither team was doing very well on the offensive end. I can’t really speak to Xavier’s shots, but Marquette’s shots had the feel of “we’re getting the shots we want, it’s just that physics is a harsh mistress.”

Marquette paid the crowd back right away in the second half, as a second chance three from Kolek put Marquette out in front, 30-28, and a Jones bucket made it a four point game. Things settled in from there into the #11 vs #16 game that we deserved. Xavier made some plays, Marquette made some plays. It was neat and fun and good, and until Boum hit a three with 9:59 to go, no one led by more than four points in either direction in the second half. Nunge hit a three with 8:43 to go to make it a six point lead, but Marquette immediately answered, and answered in a big way. Ighodaro scored on consecutive trips to kick off a 12-2 Marquette run, including an electrifying triple by David Joplin to take the lead, and following three free throws from Prosper — his first three points of the game, by the way — Ighodaro closed out the run with a bucket with 3:36 to play to put Marquette up four, 61-57.

It felt like it was time to close the door, but Xavier got their foot in the way. Boum scored to kickstart a 7-0 XU burst, pushing the Musketeers out in front, 64-61. Everyone traded some free throws, Kolek missed a shot, but Mitchell was there to lift him up, get a steal off of Boum, and Kolek threw it ahead to — who else? — Prosper for what the PBP calls a dunk but was really just an absurdly athletic and acrobatic layup. But just two points, so it was 66-65 Xavier, with 29 seconds left. Marquette called timeout to prepare, Xavier inbounded it..... and then threw the ball off that foot they stuck in the door. No, literally, this time, a bad pass booted out of bounds, and Marquette was inbounding under their own hoop with a chance to take the lead.

That chance turned into free throws for Ighodaro, who is shooting just 51.7% for the year AFTER sinking these two and just 62% in Big East play. 22 seconds left. Get a stop, win the game.

Didn’t happen.

Xavier ran some pick and roll action with Colby Jones and Jack Nunge for an admittedly very pretty layup, and Xavier was up one with 8 seconds left.

You know the rest.

While Souley Boum’s 24 led all scorers, Stevie Mitchell seems like the clear choice for Domino of the Game, and not just because he had a team high 17 points, or for his four rebounds. Maybe for his six steals, yeah, that seems worthy, and he was just all over the place all game long for Marquette, doing things, lots of things that aren’t on the stat sheet, to help push this over the line. Tyler Kolek had 15 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, while Oso Ighodaro was MU’s third double-digit scorer and he just missed a double-double with nine rebounds.

How about some highlights, courtesy of and CBS Sports Network?

Up Next: Some well earned time off. Marquette gets a bye in the Big East schedule this weekend, so they’ll be off until next week Tuesday night. The opponent? Well, would you look at that, it’s Creighton down in Omaha, so Marquette will get a chance in their very next game to create even more space between themselves and part of the three-way tie in second place behind them. That game is scheduled for a 7:30pm tipoff and FS1 will have the broadcast. In between now and then, Creighton — who just lost in double overtime on the road against Providence on Tuesday — will have to go out to New York and tangle with St. John’s on Saturday before returning to Omaha to prepare for Marquette.