Marquette shocked much of the college basketball world Friday night with a dominating 66-55 victory over the Xavier Musketeers. Most people (including myself) thought this one would come right down to the wire, but the golden eagles proved us wrong by jumping out to an early lead and never looking back. While most of the stats from this game were pretty even, the main difference was overall shooting, in that MU had a fantastic day from the field while Xavier was mediocre on 2-point and 3-point jumpers.
Let's look at our keys to the game and see how they panned out:
1. Stop Tu Holloway. CHECK. Marquette clearly figured out that to stand a chance against these guys we needed to stop their best performer in Tu Holloway. While Holloway averages 20 ppg, we held him to single-digit scoring for just the third time this season, only 5 points. Kudos to Jimmy Butler who gave Holloway fits all night and kept him from finding any rhythm in the back court.
2. Stay out of foul trouble. Semi-Check. While the X-Men had 1 more foul than MU (19-18), Otule did foul out of the game. With just 2 boards and no points though, it was a pretty quiet night for Chris anyways, so there was no real harm done with knocking him out of the game. No one else on the team had more than 3 fouls.
3. Speed up the tempo. Negative. Friday's contest with 63 possessions was actually a slower pace than both teams play, as MU and X average 67.5 and 66 possessions, respectively. Marquette has been a better half-court team than a transition team all year, so this may have played to their advantage.
4. Beat them on the boards. Semi-check. Xavier did have 2 more boards in this game, but we had four more offensive boards than they did, which allowed us to get those ever-crucial second chance points. Crowder, Butler, and Gardner had 6, 5, and 5 boards, respectively.
Like I said, aside from the keys above, overall shooting was the main difference in this game. MU shot 42% from beyond the arc, 53% overall, while the musketeers were 15% and 41% from those categories. Marquette took a lot of smart jump shots from all over the floor, created by open looks through transition and high ball screens. Jimmy Butler had a couple nice drives in the paint that he dumped off to Crowder for the easy deuce (one of them being a three-point play).
Top performances go to Jimmy Butler and DJO. DJO put up 19 points and went 4-6 from 3-point land. Rarely did he put up a shot that just made you scratch your head. Jimmy had the best overall performance with 15 points, 5 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals. He clearly was not ready to end his career in a Marquette jersey that night.
MU takes on Syracuse Sunday evening at 6:30. As you probably know, we took down the orange during their 4-game skid in conference play, so we know we're capable of beating these guys. If we play on Sunday the way we did on Friday, I like our chances to make the Sweet 16.