CINCINNATI — Marshall erased most of a 23-point second-half deficit before No. 9 Xavier held on for an 81-77 win Tuesday night at the Cintas Center.
Ajdin Penava scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Herd (8-4), whose four-game winning streak ended. Jon Elmore, the nation’s third-highest scorer at 24.2 points per game, had 16 points and nine assists but shot 6-of-17.
The Musketeers (11-1) played without starters J.P. Macura and Kaiser Gates and survived a subpar game from top scorer Trevon Bluiett, who had a season-low 10 points. Yet Xavier led 47-27 at halftime and seemed to be in complete command until Marshall erupted for 50 points over the final 20 minutes.
“That was partly them but partly us (in the first half),” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We were nervous. We had freshmen out there. If you have one or two leaks against this team, it’s tough.”
C.J. Burks added 18 points and Rondale Watson scored 10 in his Marshall debut.
Xavier’s Kerrem Kanter had 16 points and 13 rebounds, while Tyrique Jones finished with 14 points and 11 boards.
Penava scored just nine points before the half, saddled with two fouls.
“He goes out, we go on a little bit of a run. Well, he was in the entire second half and we could never really get him in foul trouble and go at him like we did in the first half,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said.
Marshall made 11-of-35 from 3-point range, including 1-of-6 by Elmore.