Unbeaten Xavier opens Big East play vs. Marquette

·2 min read

Xavier will take its unbeaten record into conference play against a traditionally tough opponent when the Musketeers host Marquette in a Big East Conference contest Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati.

Xavier (7-0, 0-0) is playing its first league game, whereas Marquette (5-3, 1-1) is playing its third in a week. The Golden Eagles won 89-84 at No. 9 Creighton on Monday before losing 70-63 at home to Seton Hall on Thursday.

The Musketeers haven't played since they smacked Oklahoma 99-77 at home on Dec. 9, which followed a 77-69 win over Cincinnati.

And Xavier could be getting even better, with the announcement this week that Hampton transfer Ben Stanley is eligible to play immediately for the Musketeers.

He could be a surprise element the Golden Eagles hadn't been expecting Sunday.

"Ben has that Big East toughness," Xavier coach Travis Steele said of the 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward. "(He) is extremely versatile."

Xavier, which has played six of its first seven games at home, has been led so far by Zach Freemantle, the squad's top scorer (18.7) and rebounder (8.0).

The sophomore forward had a season-best 28 points against Oklahoma, hitting 4 of 6 six 3-point attempts and 12 of 14 shots overall.

To remain unbeaten, the Musketeers are going to have to end a four-game losing streak to Marquette, which swept the conference home-and-home each of the past two seasons. The Golden Eagles squeaked out an 84-82 victory at Xavier last season in double overtime.

The Golden Eagles are off to a winning start this year, but one that scares coach Steve Wojciechowski, who has seen his team fall behind early time and again, as it did in Thursday's loss to Seton Hall.

"Obviously we'd prefer not to be digging ourselves a hole like we did," Wojciechowski noted after the game, "but I thought our guys had a stick-to-it-iveness, which is good, and we've shown that on a couple of occasions. But you can't rely on that to win games. You have to put a 40-minute game together."

The Golden Eagles hope for bigger things from top scorer Koby McEwen, who was held to a season-low seven points by Seton Hall after he had gone for 18 in the upset win at Creighton.

In addition to McEwen (14.6), D.J. Carton (12.3) and Dawson Garcia (12.3) are also scoring in double figures for Marquette.

--Field Level Media