No. 11 Marquette, No. 16 Xavier battle for top seed in Big East
The top spot in the Big East will be at stake when No. 11 Marquette hosts 16th-ranked Xavier on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
Marquette (20-6, 12-3 Big East) has a half-game lead over Xavier (19-6, 11-3) and No. 18 Creighton, which has won eight straight.
The Golden Eagles bounced back from an 87-72 road loss at then-No. 21 UConn with an 89-75 win over Georgetown on Saturday. Xavier was upset 69-67 at Butler on Friday.
Xavier beat Marquette 80-76 in mid-January, overcoming a nine-point, first-half deficit. The Musketeers pounded Marquette 45-32 on the boards, including a 17-9 margin on the offensive glass, which led to 17 second-chance points. The teams have split the last six games in the all-time series.
Both teams feature high-scoring offenses. Xavier leads the conference at 83.2 points per game, also ninth best in the country, followed by Marquette at 81.2. The Golden Eagles allow 70.7 points per game, while the Musketeers give up 75.7.
The Golden Eagles have four players scoring in double figures, led by Kam Jones at 15.2 points per game and Olivier-Maxence Prosper at 13.0. Tyler Kolek and Oso Ighodaro each average 11.6 points. Kolek, who had 25 points in the first meeting with Xavier, ranks second nationally with 7.7 assists per game.
Marquette is 17-5 when scoring 70 or more points, but 1-5 in games decided by five points or fewer.
Marquette is off to its best conference start since going 12-2 in 2018-19.
“We were picked ninth in the Big East. When they do the preseason prognostications, it’s largely based on who you have coming back, who you have coming in and, I guess, the status of your program in other peoples’ eyes,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “We use that to say, hey, we feel like we’re better than this and we feel like we can be better than people think.
“Now, we’re at a point where maybe people are saying we should win certain games now.”
Xavier trailed 35-21 at the half against Butler, but rallied for a 67-67 tie before the Bulldogs scored the game-winner on a goaltending call with 2.5 seconds left.
“We did a better job in the second half, but you can’t pick and choose,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “You certainly have to be as ready as you need to be and compete from start to finish.
“I credit (the Bulldogs) for getting to the basket. Whether that was a good call or bad call is irrelevant, we didn’t deserve to win.”
Xavier has lost three of its last seven after winning 11 straight.
The Musketeers have five players scoring in double figures. Souley Boum averages 16.1 points; Zach Freemantle, 15.2; Colby Jones, 15.0; Jack Nunge, 14.7; and Adam Kunkel 10.1. Freemantle averages a team-best 8.1 rebounds, followed by Nunge at 7.9
Xavier is fourth in the nation in field-goal percentage at 50.0 percent, followed by Marquette at 49.9. The Musketeers shoot 40.1 percent from beyond the arc, second best in the country.
–Field Level Media