The seventh-ranked Musketeers are set to welcome their point guard back Saturday when they visit Marquette looking for a fourth straight victory.
Sumner, who averages 11 points and 3.1 assists, took a hard fall on a drive to the basket in the opening minutes of Xavier's 95-64 loss at Villanova on Dec. 31. After he was taken off the court on a stretcher, the Musketeers (15-1, 3-1 Big East) never found a rhythm as Villanova shot 63.2 percent and hit 13 3-pointers.
Coach Chris Mack went with a conventional look in the first game without Sumner as forward James Farr had eight points and 10 rebounds in an 88-69 victory over then-No. 16 Butler on Jan. 2, and sophomore J.P. Macura has started the last two games, totaling 20 points in wins over St. John's and DePaul.
Macura had 13 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists in Tuesday's 84-64 triumph over DePaul, and while he's likely to get the start Saturday, Mack is eager to work Sumner into the mix.
"He's not going to play 40 minutes on Saturday," Mack said at his press conference Thursday. If he plays, and we're expecting he will, we'll play him as much as we can without running him down. He creates shot for teammates, put pressure on the defense because he can get into the paint.
"More importantly, he gets his hands on a lot of basketballs, he leads our team in deflections, he's terrific in ball screen defense in using his size."
Xavier hasn't missed a beat without Sumner - it held all three opponents under 40 percent shooting and averaged 82 points, above its season mark of 80.4. While the Musketeers own a Big East-leading plus-10.8 rebounding advantage, Mack is wary of a Marquette frontcourt that features standout 6-foot-10 freshman Henry Ellenson and fellow 6-10 forward Luke Fischer.
"You don't find guys his size, especially as freshman, able to do the things he can do," Mack said of Ellenson, who is averaging team highs of 15.7 points and 9.8 rebounds. "He's one of the best rebounders in our league, he can push it, doesn't have to outlet the ball, play like a guard in that sense.
"He shoots the ball, he's got that Nowitzki-type game from 15 to 17 feet, he affects the game defensively because he's so big. He's just a very, very skilled 6-10 kid."
Ellenson has reached double figures in all but one game and had 12 points and eight rebounds in Marquette's 83-68 loss at No. 6 Villanova on Wednesday. In some ways, the Golden Eagles (12-5, 2-3) played like a typical youth-laden team starting three freshmen - they fell behind by 16 early, scrambled to take a one-point halftime lead and then struggled offensively in the second half when the Wildcats pulled away.
"They really converged, we had wide-open shots,'' coach Steve Wojciechowski said. "We just didn't make them."
Fellow freshman Haanif Cheatham scored 17 points but was 4 of 14 from the field. He's averaged 16 the last three games by getting to the foul line consistently, sinking 19 of 26.
Xavier has won four of five between the teams since joining the Big East in 2013 and won 64-44 at Milwaukee while sweeping last season's series.