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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Heldt offensive rebound, late improvements help No. 12 Marquette defeat Xavier

Photo by John Steppe

CINCINNATI — A lesson head coach Steve Wojciechowski told then-sophomore Matt Heldt two years ago resulted in one of the most impactful plays in Marquette’s 87-82 win over Xavier Saturday.

After Heldt grabbed an offensive rebound against Georgia, he forced a shot up with three defenders around him. Wojciechowski told him he should immediately look for open shooters after offensive rebounds like that one.

“I never forgot that,” Heldt said. “I just have Wojo in my head every time I get an offensive rebound.”

Heldt got an offensive rebound at the 3:58 mark, and he threw the ball out to junior forward Sam Hauser, who was wide open and hit the three. It gave Marquette its first lead since the first half, never relinquishing the lead after that.

“What Matt Heldt did today was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen happen,” Wojciechowski said. “There’s no way we win without Matt Heldt.”

As a result, for only the second time in 33 years, Marquette won at Xavier, with a final score of 87-82.

Wojciechowski got emotional after the game reflecting on Heldt’s big play. Tears ran down Wojciechowski’s cheek talking about the senior center’s attitude and impact despite playing a smaller role than in past years.

“One of the things I asked my team in the locker room was, ‘If you were Matt Heldt, could you have the same attitude that he has had for our team this year?'” Wojciechowski said. “When I was his age, I don’t know if I could.”

The win did not always seem likely. Xavier had a 58-47 lead with 14:11 remaining. Then Marquette went on a 7-0 run. Heldt’s offensive rebound came about seven minutes after that run.

Junior guard Markus Howard scored five of the seven points on that run. Xavier guarded Howard heavily, but he still carried the Golden Eagles’ offense with 31 points on 10-for-22 shooting.

“What (Howard’s) been able to do at the end of the game is pretty much on par with what he’s able to do at the start of the game, and the result of that is his conditioning,” Wojciechowski said. “He was able to free himself up. … He’s just a hell of a player.”

The Golden Eagles’ defense held the Musketeers to just four field goals in the last seven minutes of the game. Xavier went more than six minutes without a field goal at one point.

Xavier cut the Golden Eagles’ lead to 83-80 with less than 10 seconds left, but Howard and redshirt junior Sacar Anim each hit a pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds to clinch the win.

Freshman forward Joey Hauser kept the Golden Eagles within striking distance of the Musketeers at several points in the game. When Marquette was trailing 9-4 in the first half, Joey Hauser hit back-to-back shots to tie the game at 9-9. He had 13 points in the first 12 minutes of the game.

When Marquette needed to get some breathing room from the Musketeers late in the second half, Joey Hauser hit a three to extend the Golden Eagles’ lead to 76-70.

“He has a chance to be a really good college basketball player,” Wojciechowski said. “Right now he needs to approach his life, his preparation and the games like that because when he does we’re a very different team, and this afternoon is an example of that.”

His performance included one three that went off the backboard. Xavier guard Quentin Goodin suggested that the “basketball gods” helped Marquette on a few of those challenging shots.

“Our guys made some tough shots,” Wojciechowski said. “We had a three go off the top of the backboard and go in.”

Sam Hauser also played a big role in the comeback, scoring 17 second-half points, including the three following Heldt’s offensive rebound.

Xavier dominated down low, putting up a 36-18 scoring advantage in the paint and a 34-30 rebounding advantage. Musketeers forward Tyrique Jones had a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

“For the most part, we got the ball where we wanted,” Xavier head coach Travis Steele said. “Whether it was via drives or via post-ups. … A couple of times we really tried to post up Markus Howard, and I thought we got a couple good looks out of that as well.”

Heldt had the challenge of simulating Xavier’s post presence as part of the scout team in practices this week.

“Jones is really strong and really athletic. (Zach) Hankins is one of the most efficient scorers in the country. They started both those guys,” Heldt said. “It puts them in great position to offensive-rebound.”

The Golden Eagles’ only other win at Xavier in the last three decades came in 2017.

“It’s a hard place to play,” Wojciechowski said. “I love their fans. I love their atmosphere. … And they’ve got darn good teams, and they have a darn good team this year.”

Marquette (18-3, 7-1 BIG EAST) will continue its two-game road trip Wednesday at Butler. The Bulldogs (12-9, 3-5 BIG EAST) are coming off back-to-back losses to Villanova and Creighton, but they have won their last five games against the Golden Eagles. 

Before that, Wojciechowski had a much more immediate thing to take care of.

“What are we going to have for dinner?” Charlie Wojciechowski asked his father at the beginning of the press conference.

“Whatever you want,” Steve Wojciechowski answered.

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