Steve Wojciechowski meets the media after Marquette's loss to Xavier in Big East tournament quarterfinals. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)
BY RAY FLORIANI
First half notes: Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski is zoning and utilizing some traps out on the perimeter. Simply, Marquette doesn’t want to sit back. They are proactive on the defensive end. Freshman of the Year Henry Ellenson, as he was last night against St. John’s, is employed either inside or out in the Marquette offense, dependent on the situation. In a half of runs by Xavier, responses by Marquette, the Musketeers have the late first half say. The run over the last five minutes of the half allowed Xavier to take a healthy double-digit lead into the locker room.
Score: Xavier 46, Marquette 30
Possessions: Marquette 35, Xavier 37
Offensive efficiency: Marquette 86, Xavier 124
Second Half: The first five possessions consume just 3:03 of playing time. Xavier ‘wins’ the five by a 7-3 count to open a twenty-point lead. Separation at its best. Xavier is on fire. Transition, shooting the three, and penetration in the half court put Chris Mack’s club is in control, establishing a 25-point lead with just over 13 minutes left. Love Mack’s coaching style. His team is up 28, and a Xavier guard throws a ridiculous no-look pass that is intercepted. Mack puts his hands on his head in disgust. One-point or 28-point game, Mack wants his teams playing the right way. Give Wojciechowski and Marquette credit. They are trying different things defensively, such as pressuring the ball handler full court after a score. The deficit is significant, but they are not mailing it in. James Farr of Xavier is hit with a dead ball technical. Despite the comfortable Xavier lead, these teams are aggressively getting after it. Marquette's offense heats up in the latter portion of the half, but the damage has been done. Xavier leads by 19 with just under five minutes left.
Final score: Xavier 90, Marquette 72
Possessions: Marquette 71, Xavier 70
Offensive efficiency: Marquette 101, Xavier 129
eFG%: Marquette 41, Xavier 61
Free Throw Rate: Marquette 38, Xavier 24
Offensive Rebound%: Marquette 27, Xavier 39
Turnover Rate: Marquette 11, Xavier 13
NOTES: Xavier has been in the Big East three years, and has won a quarterfinal game each year. The 24 points by Trevon Bluiett is a Xavier Big East Tournament record. Henry Ellenson, bothered by foul trouble, still scored 14 points in 28 minutes. Xavier led 42-32 on points in the paint. Bench scoring was 34-25 in Xavier’s favor, prompting Wojciechowski to say, “they bring James Farr and J. P, Macura off the bench. You would be hard pressed to find teams those two wouldn’t start for.” Xavier shot 11-of-26 from three-point range and 24-of-40 inside the arc. That’s offensive domination inside and out. Xavier is 27-4, while Marquette is 20-13 and hopeful of extending their season. Marquette guard Haanif Cheatham came to New York with an outrageous 26.1 percent turnover rate. In two games at the Big East tournament, the freshman did not commit a single miscue in 73 minutes of action.
What Xavier did well: Run an ultra efficient offense. A sparkling 61% eFG percentage coupled with an 11% turnover rate. Exhibits A & B. Case closed.
What Marquette did well: Care for the ball. Marquette entered New York with a turnover concern. Against St. John’s, an acceptable 18 percent. Versus the defense of Xavier, an even better 13 percent.
“I thought our team was much better defensively than the last few weeks. We preached this in practice, and I think they got it. Really pleased how we defended the first half. Offensively, we shared the ball but nothing new, we've been doing it all year. The biggest thing was make sure we earned our shots. I thought there were maybe two shots in the first half we didn’t like. We played them twice, but we know what they like to do, we know each other. There are no secrets in a round-robin league playing a team a third time, but it’s difficult for both teams. We have two ‘traditional’ big guys that makes us a tough team to guard.” -Xavier coach Chris Mack
“We strayed away from the way we play man-to-man defense. We had to get back to playing the way we know how. We did that tonight.” - Trevon Bluiett of Xavier
“I said it the other times we played them, Xavier is the real deal. Talented, well coached and potent offensively. It's disappointing, because I feel we played hard, but they are so difficult to guard. They can score inside and outside. At the end of the day, they are better than us and we have to get better. Our best player (Henry Ellenson) was in foul trouble and we finished past midnight, but no excuses. We are light years ahead of last year. We are better, but I think our guys did give it all last year. This is a veteran’s league, a man’s league. I think we can still play, whether the NCAA or NIT. I think we earned that.” - Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski