Game Recap: Xavier 86, Marquette 79

Christon's Two Late 3-Pointers were key in Xavier's win - Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Semaj Christon's career-high night leads the Musketeers to victory.

After being carried by its frontcourt for the majority of their seven game winning streak, Xavier got heavy production from its backcourt on Thursday, extending the winning streak to eight with a 86-79 victory over Marquette. Guards Semaj Christon, Dee Davis, and G/F Justin Martin combined for 56 points in a contest that featured more offense than was expected from the two defensive oriented teams. The 1.18 points per possession scored by Marquette was the highest rate Xavier has surrendered during the 2013-14 season.

Continuing his streak of stellar play, sophomore Semaj Christon showed why he is arguably the most sought after NBA prospect in the Big East, scoring a career high 28 points while missing only 2 shots from the field. With the game tied at 69 with less than five minutes to go, Christon nailed three pointers on consecutive possessions to extend the Musketeer lead to six. After shooting only 25% from behind the arc his freshman year, Christon has now made 10-22 (45.5%) of his three point attempts this season, making him dangerous both inside and out.

According to statistician Ken Pomeroy, Christon’s offensive rating was 179 on Thursday, the highest output of his career. Offensive rating measures an individual player’s production by dividing points produced by individual possessions and multiplying that number by 100. Points can be produced by making field goals or free throws, or by handing out assists and corralling offensive rebounds. An average performance results in an offensive efficiency of 100. In his career, Xavier is 19-2 when Christon records an offensive rating greater than 100 and 10-15 when the number falls below 100. By not needing to force as many shots this season, Christon has improved his shot selection and has seen a drop in turnovers. The improvements have raised the sophomore’s Offensive rating from 95.9 in 2012-13 to 110.6 this season.

Christon’s heroics helped cover Xavier’s poor defensive effort that saw Marquette play an atypical offensive game. The Golden Eagles entered the contest shooting three times as many two-point field goals as 3-pointers, while only converting 30.5% of attempts behind the arc. With Xavier’s defense being oriented to force jump shots, Marquette took nearly as many 3-pointers (27) as 2-pointers (35). The Golden Eagles set season highs in both makes (11) and attempts, and converting on an uncharacteristically high 40.7% of 3-pointers kept Marquette in the game.

The reliance on the 3-pointer did, however, take away from Marquette’s effectiveness in the paint. The Musketeers dominated on the glass, outrebounding the visitors 39-20, and also got to the line 28 more times than the Golden Eagles. A weakness earlier in the season, Xavier converted 32 of 41 free throws, and is now shooting a Big East-best 79.1% in conference games. Foul trouble plagued Marquette’s Jamil Wilson, who fouled out in 12 minutes while scoring only 5 points, 6 below his season average.

Foul trouble also impacted the Musketeers late in the first half, with Matt Stainbrook, Isaiah Philmore, and James Farr all picking up two first half fouls. Freshman reserve Jalen Reynolds provided great first half minutes in their place, corralling five defensive rebounds in 10 first half minutes. Stainbrook and Philmore avoided foul trouble in the second stanza, but were not as effective as in previous games. Marquette’s bulk frustrated Stainbrook, who finished with only 7 points, while forcing a pair of ill-advised shots late in the second half.

Thurday’s win closes out a 4-game home stand for Xavier that included three Big East victories. The Musketeers now head to Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday for a first place showdown with Creighton, who defeated DePaul on Tuesday night. A win in Omaha would likely mean a top-25 ranking for Xavier, and would establish them as a legitimate contender in the Big East.

Grading the Musketeers

Dee Davis

B

6 assists to one turnover is a tremendous output for Davis, who now boasts a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio this season. Davis primarily guarded Marquette’s Jake Thomas, who converted on 5-11 three-point attempts. Typically praised for his defense, Davis looked a half step slow on a couple occasions on Thursday night. Still, credit Thomas for making some contested attempts.

Semaj Christon

A+

Christon had his first turnover since December 21st; awfully impressive for a player who committed 3.6 turnovers per contest last season. The guard is a player that fans simply have to enjoy, as a player with his unique blend of athleticism and instincts don’t come around too often. The career high 28 points featured only 2 missed shots; both were rebounded by Xavier, one ending with a Christon 3-pointer and the other with 2 Philmore free throws.

Justin Martin

A

3 straight great games for the human roulette, who is averaging 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in Big East play. His 15 points were needed against Marquette, as second-leading scorer Matt Stainbrook had a tough match-up. Martin also showed the ability to post up when Marquette put a smaller player on him. The game at Creighton will be a great opportunity for the junior, who is the best-equipped Musketeer to defend Doug McDermott.

Isaiah Philmore

B-

An average game for the senior, who is improving his shot selection and getting to the free throw line more often than in his junior year. Philmore made a key defensive play, jumping a double screen for Jake Thomas, and contesting a 3-pointer that would have cut Xavier’s lead to 79-77 with 56 seconds left.

Matt Stainbrook

D

Stainbrook has been phenomenal as of late, but struggled with Marquette’s Davante Gardner for much of Thursday night. Gardner was able to push Stainbrook away from the block, forcing the center to catch the ball 12-15 feet away from the basket, where he is not as effective. Gardner, conversely, was able to establish offensive positioning on Stainbrook. Eight rebounds for Stainbrook were key, and this looks like a rare poor game for the Western Michigan transfer.

James Farr

A-

Farr’s role is to be an offensive spark, and there is no better way to spark the Cintas Center crowd than nailing a three pointer and having a thunderous tip slam within a matter of two minutes. Farr’s first half foul trouble forced Xavier to play skinnier big men Reynolds and Stenger against Marquette’s large frontcourt.

Myles Davis

F

Davis is in a slump, and now may be pressing a little too much, going 0-7 behind the arc in his last four games. The ten minutes played was Davis’ second fewest of the season, and two missed free throws don’t help with confidence either. Davis will be encouraged by his teammates to continue shooting, and when he gets back to his normal effectiveness, Xavier’s offense will add another threat.

Brandon Randoph

C

When Dee Davis and Semaj Christon are playing this well, Randolph’s role is to spell the starters, and simply drive the car. This makes Randolph tough to grade, as he will not be asked to be a game changer on the offensive end.

Jalen Reynolds

A

Coming off a season-low 3 minutes, Reynolds responded with great rebounding with Philmore and Stainbrook on the bench with foul trouble. Reynolds had 5 defensive rebounds on a night where Marquette only rebounded 17.6% of their own misses.

Chris Mack

A

Buzz Williams had out-coached Mack in their previous two meetings, both double digit Marquette wins. Mack had a great game plan this time around, as Marquette got away from their inside play, and attempted more 3-pointers than they had all year. While the Golden Eagles made 40.5% of their 3s, Mack will gladly allow players like John Dawson to shoot. Dawson entered the game 1-8 from behind the arc and made two triples against Xavier. The 39-20 rebounding margin and 41-13 edge in free throw attempts was a result of Mack’s effort to get the ball inside. Mack has also settled into a playing rotation for his team, but needs to try to get Davis and Christon more rest so they are fresh throughout the season.

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