St Johns Xavier Basketball

Xavier’s Semaj Christon is a stud, and why Marquette fans should be very worred

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All anyone is going to want to talk about after Xavier’s 86-79 win over Marquette on Thursday night is how the Golden Eagles appear destined for the wrong side of the bubble this year.

And it makes sense, as weird as it sounds saying that about a team coached by Buzz Williams. Marquette is now 9-7 on the season. They’ve played seven good teams this season and lost all seven games. Their best win is either George Washington in the Wooden Legacy tournament in California or their win over DePaul in Big East play. That’s not much to write home about.

The biggest problem?

This isn’t last year’s Big East. There just aren’t as many good wins available for the Golden Eagles to get in league play. They have two games left against Villanova, and beating the Wildcats this year will definitely move the needle. They will also get another crack at Creighton, as well as Xavier, at home. Toss is two games against a very mediocre Georgetown team, and that’s it.

Those six games, two of which many not even be beneficial.

It’s way too early in the season to write anyone off, but the Golden Eagles are playing with fire.

Back to my point, that’s going to be the topic that gets most of the play from this game on Thursday night, and that won’t necessarily be fair, not after Semaj Christon put together what is arguably his best game as a Musketeer. He finished with a career-high 28 points, hitting 8-for-10 from the floor, 9-for-10 from the free throw line and all three of his threes, a notable fact for a player whose perimeter shooting is his biggest issue.

Christon, quite simply, was awesome, but the number you’ll really want to pay attention is the one turnover he had.

Because that was the first turnover that Christon had in almost three weeks.

With just under 14 minutes left in the first half of Xavier’s win over Alabama on Dec. 21st, Christon turned the ball over. It took 140 minutes of gametime in which he notched 25 assists — with three full games in between — before Christon turned the ball over again.

This from a guy that averaged 3.6 turnovers as a freshman.

My point?

Xavier had an abysmal trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they’ve now won eight straight games (including Cincinnati, Alabama and Marquette) and have their all-american caliber point guard playing like the potential first round pick that he is.

The Musketeers are streaking, which is why their trip to Creighton on Sunday is so intriguing. They’ve played their first three Big East games at home. Can they get it done on the road, too?

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.

No. 24 Cincinnati beats George Washington 61-56

Troy Caupain
AP Photo
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NEW YORK (AP) Troy Caupain scored 16 points, including the go-ahead three-point play with 1:38 to play, and No. 24 Cincinnati beat George Washington 61-56 on Saturday in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic.

The fact the game came down to a three-point play was ironic as both teams took 22 3-point attempts and there were times it seemed a 3-point shooting broke out.

Caupain’s traditional three-point play gave the Bearcats (7-0) a 55-54 lead. After a missed 3 by the Colonials (6-1) Octavius Ellis, who chosen the tournament MVP, scored on a tip-in. Patricio Garino scored on a drive for George Washington with 29 seconds left.

The Colonials let the Bearcats pass the ball around and they finally fouled when Ellis touched the ball with 14 seconds to play. Ellis, a 56 percent free throw shooter, clinched his MVP award by making both for a 59-56 lead. Two free throws by Caupain with 6.1 seconds left capped the scoring.

Farad Cobb and Kevin Johnson both had 11 points for the Bearcats while Ellis had nine points and seven rebounds.

Garino had 15 points for George Washington, Tyler Cavanaugh had 13 and Joe McDonald 11.

The Colonials finished 11 of 22 from 3-point range, not bad for a team that came in shooting 27.9 percent (29 of 104) from there. The 50 percent doesn’t look so good when you consider the Colonials made five of their first six 3-point attempts and were 8 of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half. They went 16:42 between 2-point field goals but led 30-27 at halftime.

The Bearcats were 7 of 22 from 3-point range but their advantage came at the free throw line where they were 10 of 12 compared to George Washington’s 3 of 4.


George Washington: The Colonials beat Tennessee in the opening round and they were 3 of 15 on 3s. … George Washington was off to its best start since it was8-0 in 2005-06. … The Colonials finished 10 for 34 from 2-point range.

Cincinnati: The win gives the Bearcats a 13-1 all-time record against George Washington and this was their sixth straight. The last win came on Jan. 31, 1976. … Cincinnati is 7-0 for the fourth time in the last six seasons. … The Bearcats are 51-8 in and have won 24 of 25 in November under coach Mick Cronin. They have won 49 straight games when scoring over 60 points. The 60th point against the Colonials came with 6.1 seconds to play.


George Washington hosts Seton Hall on Wednesday.

Cincinnati hosts Butler on Wednesday.