GAME NOTES: The Seton Hall Pirates will try to become the first visiting team to come out of the Cintas Center victorious this season as they tangle with the Xavier Musketeers in a Big East Conference bout on Saturday.
Coach Kevin Willard's Pirates dropped to 3-5 in the conference standings on Wednesday with a 64-57 loss to Butler at the Prudential Center. Seton Hall was tied with Butler in the second half, but the Bulldogs closed out the game on a 7-0 run. The Pirates have lost two of their last three outings to fall to a 12-9 overall record. They will conclude their two-game road trip on Friday at Villanova.
Xavier experienced just its second loss since the start of December last Saturday as it was downed, 81-72, by Providence. The Musketeers are a much different team in their own arena, where they have gone 12-0, including notable triumphs over Tennessee, Cincinnati, St. John's and Marquette. Coach Chris Mack's team has outscored its Big East opposition by an average of 8.5 ppg thanks to its league-leading average of 80 ppg in conference action.
This will be the eighth meeting in history and the first since 2010 between these schools on the hardwood. Seton Hall owns a 4-3 all-time series edge despite losing to Xavier, 57-52, on Nov. 21 in the Paradise Jam.
Seton Hall has managed to score 70.8 ppg in its eight Big East contests, but it has allowed its league rivals to net 72 ppg as well. The Pirates were held to just 57 points by Butler after they had trouble getting to the charity stripe and knocking down shots from behind the 3-point line. Butler outscored Seton Hall, 11-4, at the free-throw line and assisted 14 of its 23 made field goal tries. Willard's squad also hit on only 7-of-22 attempts from beyond the arc in the loss. Fuquan Edwin paced the Pirates with 20 points and also racked up six steals. Brandon Mobley recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while Eugene Teague netted 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field. Sterling Gibbs finished 3-of-9 from the floor en route to seven points and five assists. Gibbs is netting 14.7 ppg to go along with a team-high 4.5 apg. Edwin is second on the team with 14.1 ppg, while Teague is a double- double threat with 10.5 ppg and 8.4 rpg.
The Musketeers came up short against the Friars despite receiving excellent contributions from Justin Martin and Semaj Christon. Martin tallied 19 points and seven rebounds while Christon went 5-of-14 from the field to net 18 points. Matt Stainbrook also got into the mix with 11 points and nine boards, but Xavier's 3-of-18 clip from 3-point range prevented it from keeping up for Providence. Christon is considered one of the elite guards in the nation and is the Musketeers' undisputed leader on the court with 17 ppg, 3.9 apg and 1.4 steals per tilt. Dee Davis provides steady ball handling and passing next to Christon in the backcourt, but has failed to establish himself as a scoring threat.
Edwin is one of the best defenders in the country. If he is able to contain Christon on his own, Seton Hall will have a very good chance of ending Xavier's dominance in Cincinnati. The Musketeers are much more than a one-man team, but Christon is without a doubt their key weapon on the offensive end.
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