CINCINNATI (AP) — Four straight impressive wins — each led by a different player — have No. 8 Xavier back in form at the midpoint of the Big East season.
Point guard Quentin Goodin scored 13 of his team-high 15 points while Xavier took control in the first half, and the Musketeers routed Marquette 89-70 on Wednesday night to remain unbeaten at home.
The Musketeers (19-3, 7-2 Big East) surged ahead by 26 and were never threatened as they beat the Golden Eagles for the second time this season. Xavier has won eight of the last 10 games between the schools.
The Musketeers have fully recovered from back-to-back road losses at Providence and No. 1 Villanova earlier this month.
“I feel like we’re heading in the right direction,” said Trevon Bluiett, who added 13 points. “The difference this time is we can’t get relaxed.”
Bluiett’s last basket made him the fifth Musketeers player with 2,000 career points, joining Byron Larkin (2,696), David West (2,132), Romain Sato (2,005) and Tyrone Hill (2,003).
“When I got that last basket, I heard the gym erupt and saw my teammates coming over to give me high fives, and the reality kind of set in,” Bluiett said. “It was a special moment for me. I always wanted to come to a program where I’d have an impact, whatever it was. To leave my name in Xavier history is special.”
Markus Howard had 33 points for Marquette (13-7, 4-4), which entered second in the nation in 3-pointers. But the Golden Eagles went only 6 of 23 from outside the arc, matching their season low for 3s.
“As good as they were, we were equally as bad,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “That’s not a good combination. We were outclassed in every way.”
The Golden Eagles have the league’s top two scorers in Howard and Andrew Rowsey, who had 31 points in the earlier 91-87 loss to Xavier . The Musketeers clamped down on Rowsey, turning Howard into a one-man show that wasn’t nearly enough.
“Our offense just wasn’t flowing like it usually does,” said Howard, who was 14 of 27 from the field, making half of his team’s baskets. “We saw Xavier bring it on defense.”
Howard had 20 points, but the rest of the team went only 2 of 13 as Xavier built a 20-point lead in the first half. Rowsey managed only three points in the decisive half and finished with six points.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles are 1-5 this season against Top 25 teams, their only win coming over No. 13 Seton Hall on Jan. 9. They get another chance Sunday when they host No. 1 Villanova . They’re 0-4 this season against top-10 teams, with two losses to Xavier and one each to No. 1 Villanova and then-No. 6 Wichita State.
Xavier: The Golden Eagles made 15 3-pointers in the earlier game against Xavier, so perimeter defense was the Musketeers’ focus. They succeeded in shutting down the outside — the Golden Eagles were only 2 of 11 from beyond the arc as Xavier built its lead to 20 points.
“We wanted to come in with a mindset of defense first,” Goodin said.
NO LONGER PERFECT
Howard came in as the only player in Division I who hadn’t missed a free throw this season, making all 57 tries. He had a streak of 66 in a row that dated to last season. But he missed on his first attempt Wednesday, leaving him two shy of Steve Novak’s school record set from 2004-06. Howard missed another one later in the game, finishing 2 of 4 from the line.
PERFECT AT HOME
The Musketeers improved to 14-0 at the Cintas Center this season and 242-35 all-time.
RUSTY, RUSTY, RUSTY …
Marquette hadn’t played since Jan. 15 because of exams and struggled to get into a flow.
“I wouldn’t wish a nine-day break on any team in our league,” Wojciechowski said. “Nine days is an eternity. Obviously we didn’t handle it well, or we would have played better.”
Marquette forward Sam Hauser hurt his hip in the first half and was limited to 21 minutes. He had five points and four rebounds. The Musketeers dominated inside, getting 46 points in the paint.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles lost at Villanova 100-90 on Jan. 6. The Wildcats were coming off their first loss of the season, 101-93 to Butler.
Xavier: The Musketeers play at St. John’s on Tuesday. They beat the Red Storm 88-82 last Wednesday at home, led by Kerem Kanter’s 22 points and 13 rebounds.