Marquette-Xavier Preview

Xavier was the first Division I squad to reach 20 victories, but that doesn't mean the Musketeers are content.

Looking to put together a more complete performance, they try to keep pace with Villanova in the Big East on Saturday when they host Marquette.

Ranked sixth in the country, Xavier (20-2, 8-2) felt it played uneven in beating last-place St. John's 90-83 on Wednesday. Myles Davis had all 16 of his points in the second half to pace five players in double figures, and while the Musketeers asserted their usual dominance on the boards by a 49-34 count – they lead the conference with a plus-9.6 margin that's also 11th in the country – he wasn't thrilled with how Xavier arrived at its fourth straight win.

“We should have played better,'' Davis said. “We allowed way too many points. They also stopped us a lot, messed up our offense, took us out of our flow. Of course when you feel you should play better, you feel a little down. But we won.”

The 83 points allowed were Xavier's second-most, trailing only its 95-64 drubbing Dec. 31 by the Big East-leading and current No. 3 Wildcats, whom the lead the Musketeers by one game and visit No. 11 Providence on Saturday. Xavier has let the conference's two worst teams – the Red Storm and DePaul – shoot a combined 45.9 percent in the last two games, well above its season defensive mark of 40.7 percent.

Marquette (15-8, 4-6) shot exactly 40.7 percent in Wednesday's 79-62 loss at Seton Hall that ended a three-game winning streak. Freshman Henry Ellenson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for his 14th double-double, but the Golden Eagles were undone with a poor defensive stretch in the second half when they allowed the Pirates to hit four straight 3-pointers in a 14-4 spurt.

Despite the presence of the 6-foot-11 Ellenson, who averages 16.0 points and a conference-high 10.0 rebounds, and fellow 6-11 forward Luke Fischer (12.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg), rebounding has been an issue. The Golden Eagles were outrebounded 40-31 by the Pirates and rank eighth in the Big East in rebound margin at plus-0.5 per game.

Marquette has split its four games against ranked opponents this season, highlighted by a 65-64 victory at then-No. 8 Providence on Jan. 5.

The Golden Eagles are hoping freshman Haanif Cheatham can end his struggles offensively, totaling 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting the last two games. He missed all four of his shots and finished with two points in a 74-66 loss to Xavier on Jan. 16.

Xavier is going for its second straight season series sweep, taking control of the first meeting with a 21-0 first-half run as James Farr had 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds off the bench. The Musketeers outrebounded the Golden Eagles 49-38 and held them to 34.3 percent shooting as Ellenson got little help while totaling 20 points and seven rebounds.

“They go two deep at every position, can bring in a guy like Farr off the bench when you can make the argument he can be first-team in the Big East” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said of Xavier on his weekly radio show. “They have veteran players, they're the total package as a team. They're really good.”