Marquette comeback falls short, defense falls flat in loss to Xavier
CINCINNATI (AP) — Semaj Christon scored a career-high 28 points and hit back-to-back 3s in the closing minutes Thursday night, helping Xavier hold on for an 86-79 victory over Marquette and its eighth win in a row.
Xavier (13-3, 3-0 Big East) let a 12-point lead slip away in the second half before Christon hit the pair of 3s, putting the Musketeers ahead to stay. They won a matchup of the league’s top defensive and rebounding teams.
Marquette (9-7, 1-2) hadn’t allowed 80 points this season. Xavier dominated the boards 39-20 and went 32 of 41 on free throws.
The Golden Eagles were last in the league in 3-pointers, but kept it close by making a season-high 11 shots from beyond the arc. Davante Gardner had 19 points.
Justin Martin added 15 points and eight rebounds for Xavier, which never trailed in the second half. Xavier improved to 11-0 at the Cintas Center this season and 182-25 in its 14 seasons at the on-campus arena.
The was the first game between the teams since Marquette beat Xavier 66-55 in the 2011 NCAA tournament, advancing to the Sweet 16 for first time under coach Buzz Williams.
The Musketeers were coming off a rough night. A half-dozen players were forced out of their dorm rooms in the middle of the night because of a broken water pipe. Forward Isaiah Philmore slept a few hours on a couch in the locker room, his legs draped over the end.
Xavier had trouble getting the ball inside at the outset. Jake Wilson had a pair of catch-and-shoot 3s that gave Marquette an 8-2 lead.
Philmore got free for a couple of layups, and Dee Davis completed a three-point play that gave Xavier its first lead at 13-12. Center Matt Stainbrook picked up his second foul with 12:29 left and went to the bench for the rest of the half, costing the Musketeers their best inside defender and most consistent front-line scorer.
Forward James Farr hit a 3-pointer and brought the crowd to its feet with a one-hand rebound and dunk that gave Xavier a 20-19 lead.
There were six lead changes before Xavier went on an 11-point run. The Musketeers drove to the hoop, got fouled and made five free throws during the spurt. The Golden Eagles missed five shots and had two turnovers.
The Musketeers led by as many as eight points in the half, which featured 17 points by Christon. Xavier was only the second team to score 40 points in the first half against Marquette this season.
Stainbrook was back for the start of the second half and made a left-hand hook that started a six-point run and pushed the lead to 46-34.
John Dawson and Thomas hit back-to-back 3s that cut the lead to 54-51. Gardner’s bank shot tied it at 60 with 7:58 left.
The Golden Eagles never regained the lead. Christon’s 3-pointers and Davis’ two free throws gave the Musketeers a 77-69 lead with 2:57 left. Xavier finished it off at the free-throw line.