By: Parker Fields
Photo By: Xavier Gameday
Not many times this late in a College Basketball Season you see two teams on five-game winning streaks or longer. Xavier comes into this game on a ten-game winning streak, and have not lost in almost two months. Marquette on the other hand isn't playing too shabby themselves. Marquette is currently on a five-game winning streak, and haven't lost in almost a month.
Everything was gearing up for this to be an electric, high-scoring matchup. Xavier is ranked as the number-one scoring offense in the Big East at 84.4 points per game. Marquette is not far behind as they are second in the Conference averaging 83.1 points per game. Everything was leading up to this game being a shootout between two of the hottest teams in the country.
This game started with Marquette being the much more aggressive team early. Marquette got out to an 8-2 lead early and Xavier could not stop Marquette's Pick and Roll defense. Xavier, however, picked it up offensively and realized the key for them was to get the ball inside. Xavier took their first lead at 18-16 and had just attempted one three-pointer to that point. They realized they could feast in the paint, with low-post touches to their two bigs. As well as penetrating the lane with their guards. From that point on, that's where Tyler Kolek of Marquette started to pick it up. Kolek was dominant in attacking the rim, and Xavier had no answer in containing. Xavier's offense never stopped flowing, however. Senior guards Souley Boum and Adam Kunkel starting to get things going on the perimeter, hitting timely jump shots and creating for others. The rest of the half was a chaotic, explosive shootout. Marquette did however have the lead at the half due to their efficient offense. As I said earlier, throughout the first half Xavier had no answer for Tyler Kolek in the pick-and-roll. Kolek finished the first half with twenty points on 9/11 shooting. Kolek also grabbed three rebounds and four assists in the half. Xavier was led by Jack Nunge with nine points and seven rebounds before intermission.
Xavier shot 49% from the field in the first half, however just 22% from three in the half. Marquette was extremely efficient offensively in this half, shooting 59% from the field and 42% from three in the half. To go along with this, they had 15 assists to just 3 turnovers. This is a super efficient 5-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Xavier stayed in this game and kept it close with their rebounding. Xavier pulled down ten offensive rebounds, which led to five extra-shot attempts over Marquette in the first half.
Going into the second half, it was going to be interesting to see what defensive adjustments Xavier would make. There was one simple adjustment Xavier made, they were simply the more physical team.
Xavier came out in the second half and took advantage of the fact that these refs were letting the players play. The refs constantly were not calling fouls and allowing both teams to be physical on defense. Xavier's physicality led to Marquette having to take many late shot-clock shot attempts. The second half was a defensive struggle with many lead changes. Souley Boum led the charge in Xavier's comeback with 14 second-half points. Boum has continued to impress this season, even when it's not his best shooting effort. Tyler Kolek, the star of the first half struggled in the second half. Kolek shot just 2/7 from the field and 0/4 from three for just 5 points. Xavier's ball pressure on Kolek gave him fits in the second half.
Due to great foul shooting, going 6/6 in the final 30 seconds Xavier was able to hold onto a hard-fought 80-76 victory. Xavier had held on and won their eleventh straight game.
Xavier was led by Jack Nunge who had a huge double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds. Souley Boum also chipped in 16 points. Adam Kunkel had his best game in a couple of weeks with twelve points. Marquette was led by Tyler Kolek who impressed me greatly even with a rough second half. Kolek finished the game with 25 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists.
Xavier shot 45% from the field and just 28% from three. However, they had 17 offensive rebounds to just 9 from Marquette.
Xavier (15-3) will now travel to take on DePaul on Wednesday at 8:30 looking to get to 8-0 in the conference and extend their win streak to 12 games.