NEW YORK – You ring up 90 points and the first thing coming to mind is an offensive clinic. In the estimation of Xavier coach Chris Mack, it was about the defense. Xavier defeated Marquette in the first quarterfinal of the evening session at the Big East Tournament. The Musketeers would be paired against the winner of Seton Hall-Creighton, the night cap combatants.
“We got back to playing defense the way we can and had been doing earlier,” Mack said. “We addressed our defense in practice the last few weeks, I was pleased with what we did.”
Xavier gave up 70 points and an above-average 101 defensive efficiency. But here is the key. In the first half, Xavier rang up a 46-30 lead. Marquette had 37 possessions for an 86 offensive efficiency. That’s outstanding ‘D’. The second half, Marquette used 34 possessions, scored 42 points and posted a 124 offensive efficiency. A bit too high on the defensive side. Mack admitted as much but was pleased with the full body of work. Especially that first half when Xavier’s defense set the tone for the evening.
Marquette is 20-13. “I don’t know if we are NCAA or NIT but I know we deserve to keep playing,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “This group has earned it. We are light years ahead of where we were last season at this time.”
Xavier is 27-4 and interestingly has split with both of the potential semifinal teams. Xavier put five in double figures with the leader being sophomore guard Trevon Bluiett with 24 points. Jajuan Johnson came off the bench to pace Marquette with 19 points. Freshman of the Year Henry Ellenson scored 14 points in 28 minutes.
“We played past midnight (win over St. John’s) last night and had opur best player (Ellenson) in foul trouble,” Wokciechowski said. “That’s really no excuse. Xavier just did a better job offensive and defensively.”