Mack explains what could make Xavier ‘really, really special’
CINCINNATI (AP) — Time was winding down, and Xavier had trailed the entire second half. The Musketeers made the final 4 minutes their own.
J.P. Macura scored a career-high 20 points and hit a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch Saturday, rallying No. 6 Xavier to a 90-82 victory over Marquette.
The Musketeers (21-2, 9-2 Big East) have won five in a row and six of seven against the Golden Eagles (15-9, 4-7), who led throughout the second half before Macura led the comeback. He had back-to-back 3s that put Xavier ahead to stay with 2:55 to go.
“We stuck around when not everything was going our way, and coming into the last four minutes we were prepared for it,” Trevon Bluiett said. “We hit a different gear and everything took care of itself. I wish we could play like that more often. That’s where we’re hoping to get to.”
Bluiett had 23 points and a career-high eight assists. Edmond Sumner had 20 points, 15 in the first half. Xavier made a season-high 13 3-pointers and shot a season-high 65 percent from beyond the arc.
“If we shoot the ball like I know they’re capable from 3-point range, this team has a chance to be really, really special,” coach Chris Mack said.
The Golden Eagles had three straight turnovers down the stretch, helping Xavier hold on.
“Turnovers have been our Achilles heel all year,” coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “We have some amazing turnovers at costly times. Against a team like Xavier, there isn’t any margin for error. You can’t have empty possessions.”
Henry Ellenson led Marquette with 22 points, and Haanif Cheatham added 21. The Golden Eagles shot 54.7 percent from the field and had a 35-27 edge on the boards, only the second time Xavier has been outrebounded.
“Our kids put us in position to win the game against a hell of a team that’s playing really well,” Wojciechowski said. “So it’s hard to go into the locker room and find fault with our effort or competitive spirit. That’s the most physical we’ve been especially on the backboards. I was proud of that.”
Sumner gave Xavier the first significant lead of the game. He had a pair of dunks and a 3-pointer, and Bluiett hit a 3 that put the Musketeers ahead 19-12. Cheatham hit a 3 that started a 15-0 run for Marquette for a 29-20 lead, with five different players scoring during the spurt.
The Golden Eagles led the rest of the half, taking a 39-35 lead to the break. The only other time Xavier trailed at halftime was during an 81-72 home loss to Georgetown on Jan. 19. That’s the only game in which Xavier has been outrebounded this season.
Xavier dominated the boards 49-38 in the win at Marquette, but the Golden Eagles kept it close by using its front line to full advantage in the rematch.
The Golden Eagles led by as many as seven in the second half before Xavier went on an eight-point run. Macura had a pair of free throws and a fast-break layup gave Xavier its first lead of the half 65-63 with 7:14 to go. Macura had another fast-break layup off a steal, and Myles Davis’ 3 pushed the lead to 72-67.
After Marquette twice pulled even, Macura hit the back-to-back 3s that left Xavier in control.
“There were a few plays when I basically was wide open,” Macura said. “My mindset is to knock down a shot they gave me.”
A LOT OF POINTS
Marquette was only the fourth team to score 80 points against Xavier this season. The Musketeers have given up 80 in back-to-back games for the first time while winning both.
Cheatham picked up his fourth foul with 17:09 left. He was Marquette’s second-leading scorer with 12 points at the time. Bluiett got his fourth with 10:31 to go, when he had 17 points.
Marquette: Ellenson had 20 points in the loss to Xavier on Jan. 16. He scored at least 20 for the sixth time this season.
Xavier: Macura made his fourth start and his first since the win at Marquette. Mack has praised his effort in recent games and said he liked the matchups with him on the floor.
Marquette: Golden Eagles host No. 11 Providence on Wednesday.
Xavier: Musketeers play at Creighton on Tuesday.
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