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Kam Jones scores 30, No. 8 Marquette snaps skid with 86-80 win over Xavier

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Posted at 10:15 AM, Mar 11, 2024

CINCINNATI (AP) — Kam Jones had 30 points and Oso Ighodaro scored 24 to help No. 8 Marquette snap a two-game losing streak with an 86-80 victory over Xavier on Saturday.

The Golden Eagles (23-8, 14-6 Big East), who were without injured guard Tyler Kolek for the third straight game, secured the No. 3 seed in the Big East Tournament.

"When you have the reigning Big East player of the year on the bench in street clothes, I thought our guys did a really good job to help each other and continuing to believe," Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. "I didn't want to put undue pressure on them, but it was an incredibly big win for us."

Quincy Olivari, a graduate transfer from Rice who was playing his final home game at Xavier, had 32 points and Dayvion McKnight scored 16.

Xavier (15-16, 9-11) is trying to avoid its first losing season in 28 years.

"In every game that happens, we're in the game and there are big momentum swings," Olivari said. "I definitely wanted to win this game. I didn't want to lose again on senior night."

Marquette led by as many as nine points in the first half. Olivari's 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer cut the Musketeers' deficit to 37-33.

Jones, who scored 18 of his points in the first half, was 4 of 6 from 3-point range and 12 of 17 overall.

"Every road game is huge, with or without (Kolek)," Jones said. "We would much rather have him out there. But it's tough to win on the road. The ref's against you, the crowd's against you. So, it's a huge win."

Olivari made consecutive 3-pointers to give the Musketeers a 46-41 lead early in the second half.

"One of the tests we faced tonight, when the ball wasn't going in, you don't have time to feel sorry for yourself," Smart said.

A 3-pointer by Ben Gold started a 10-0 run to help the Golden Eagles regain control.

The Musketeers committed eight turnovers in the first half, but had only four the rest of the way.

Stevie Mitchell's 3-pointer gave the Golden Eagles a 78-74 lead with 2:57 remaining.

"If he didn't make that shot, maybe we're talking about a different result," Smart said.

There were 14 ties and 11 lead changes as the conference rivals battled down to the final minutes.

"A lot of people thought we would come in here and get blown out," Olivari said. "That's just the Big East. On any given night, anybody can get anybody."

It was the 86th meeting in the series, which began in 1958. Marquette leads 58-27, including a 15-14 mark since the schools joined the Big East.

BIG PICTURE:

Marquette: Kolek missed his third straight game with an oblique injury. Kolek, who averages 15 points and shoots 40% from 3-point range, participated in warmups Saturday and could return for the Big East Tournament.

Xavier: The Musketeers' streak of 27 consecutive winning seasons is tied for the nation's fourth longest. They haven't finished below .500 since 1996, which was their first season in the Atlantic 10 conference. Xavier finished the season 11-7 at Cintas Center, where they'd never lost more than five games since it opened in 2000.

UP NEXT

Xavier: Plays Wednesday in the first round of the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Marquette: Begins its tournament play Thursday.