Macura Leads Comeback over No. 19 Seton Hall
The No. 11 ranked Xavier Menís Basketball team grabbed its third straight win on Saturday afternoon in a comeback 73-64 win over the No. 19 ranked Pirates of Seton Hall. The Muskies gave Seton Hall their first home loss of the season at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey in front of a sellout crowd (10,352). Early struggles on both sides of the ball were overcome with persistence and hustle as Senior guard and leading scorer J.P. Macura (27 points) led his team to a third straight victory. Xavier improves to 18-3 (6-2 Big East) following the 10-point comeback win while Seton Hall falls to 15-5 (4-3 Big East).
The nations only top-25 matchup of the day began in similar fashion to the Musketeersí previous two wins: slow. Freshman forward Naji Marshall in his third start for the Muskies opened up the contest with a three-point shot, allowing his team to take an early 3-0 lead. Seton Hall responded with back-to-back buckets as they looked to get a fired-up crowd involved in the classic Big East matchup. A pair of Xavier turnovers and poor defense by the Muskies resulted in an early 13-5 lead for the Pirates only four minutes into the game.
Xavier struggled shooting the ball early in the game and most of the first half, as they had poor shot selection and even failed to hit the rim on multiple occasions. After setting a team high for three-pointers made in a game on Wednesday against St. Johnís, the Muskies shot 4-13 (30.8%) from beyond the arc in the first half and shot a field goal percentage of 38%, connecting on only 11 field goals in the half. The Musketeers made up for their lack of shooting with hustle and defense, drawing multiple charges and offensive fouls throughout the contest. Xavier also grabbed 12 steals in the game and took advantage of Seton Hallís carelessness, scoring 21 points off of turnovers.
Seton Hall held a 5-point lead at halftime as the Musketeers opened the second half struggling to grab rebounds and make free-throws. Seton Hall grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in the game and scored 12 second chance points, with the majority of them coming in the early part of the second half. The Muskies found themselves down 9 points with 15:30 to play in the game, then slowly inched back following high percentage shots from Senior guard Trevon Bluiett and Freshman guard Paul Scruggs. Xavier finally took a 52-51 lead after a tough corner 3 pointer from Senior guard J.P. Macura with 8:00 left to play; their first lead since only two minutes into the game.
Macura, Bluiett, and forward Kaiser Gates all contributed from beyond the arc in the latter portion of the half, making up for the lack of transition defense that the Muskies displayed throughout the contest. Macura put an exclamation point on the comeback with a monster one-handed put back dunk off a musketeer miss to give Xavier a seven-point lead with 1:30 to play. A series of fouls committed by Seton Hall gave Xavier the chance to increase their lead, as they settled in and returned to their typical consistency in free-throw shooting. Trevon Bluiett sealed the deal with a last second steal, allowing the Musketeers to run the clock out.
Xavier will return home on Wednesday, January 24th as they take on Marquette for the second matchup with the Golden Eagles in Big East play. Tip-off is set for 6:30pm.