No. 6 Xavier holds off Marquette
MILWAUKEE — Leading up to No. 6 Xavier’s Big East opener at Marquette, Musketeers head coach Chris Mack was confident his squad learned a lesson or two after being swept by the Golden Eagles last season.
On Wednesday night, Xavier rewarded its coach’s faith as Trevon Bluiett scored 23 points with six rebounds and eight assists, and J.P Macura added 15 points in a 91-87 thriller at the Bradley Center.
“It beats being here a year ago,” Mack said afterward.
Xavier (13-1, 1-0 Big East) extended its winning streak to eight games by shooting 50.8 percent from the floor and 59 percent in the second half.
Marquette (9-4, 0-1) shot the lights out against the Musketeers last season but connected at a more pedestrian 46.4 percent clip this time.
The Golden Eagles knocked down 15 3-pointers — six coming from Andrew Rowsey, who finished with a game-high 31 points. That compared to just seven for Xavier, but the Musketeers made up the deficit at the free-throw line, where they were 22 of 24 while Marquette made just 8 of 14.
“We have to figure out ways to get to the line more,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “But that had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.”
Perhaps not, but it certainly didn’t help the Golden Eagles’ cause, especially in the second half when they missed 6 of 9 attempts while Xavier went 8 of 9 and shot 59.3 percent from the floor.
Rowsey had a big second half, scoring 17, but Xavier’s defense clamped down on Sam Hauser and Markus Howard, holding that duo to a combined 10 points after halftime, with Hauser taking only two shots.
“To hold two of the three under their average, that’s about the best we can ask for,” Mack said. “Some of their freshmen made some really big plays, hit some big shots and we kind of have to live with that.”
Tied at 47 coming out of halftime, it was a back-and-forth affair the rest of the way. Marquette took a five-point lead on Theo John’s jumper with 12:38 left, but a Macura 3-pointer with 7:21 remaining gave Xavier a five-point cushion. After Howard’s 3-point attempt came up empty, Bluiett fed Paul Scruggs for a jumper to put the Musketeers up 72-65.
Marquette snuck back and got within a bucket before Quentin Goodin hit a pair of free throws with 4:20 left, putting Xavier back up four.
Rowsey scored eight straight points for Marquette, tying the game at 80 with 2:10 to play, but the Golden Eagles couldn’t get over the hump.
“I just wanted to win,” Rowsey said. “I was doing whatever I needed to do to win at that point but we hurt ourselves down the stretch, on offense and defense.”
Macura hit 4 of 7 shots and scored 11 in the second half while Bluiett made up for a 0-for-4 showing from beyond the arc by making all six of his free throws to score 12 after the break.
NOTES: Xavier is off to its best 14-game start in program history. ... Marquette Gs Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey opened the conference slate first and second, respectively, in scoring among Big East players. ... Xavier G Trevon Bluiett came into the game fourth in the league at 19.8 points per game. ... Marquette swept the season series a year ago, snapping a six-game Musketeers winning streak. The Golden Eagles are 49-22 all-time against Xavier in a series that dates back to the 1958-59 season.