MILWAUKEE— Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder each scored 23 points, leading Marquette (21-5, 10-3) to a 95-78 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats (17-8, 7-5) on National Marquette Day on Saturday at the Bradley Center
While Bill Murray wasn’t in attendance, it sure seemed like Groundhog Day for the Golden Eagles, as they found themselves in yet another early deficit.
The Bearcats blitzed the Golden Eagles from the get-go, jumping out to a 16-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game. During that stretch the Bearcats hit two three-pointers. They would hit just one more from downtown the rest of the game.
But for the fifth time in BIG EAST Play, Marquette was able to rally back from a double-digit first-half deficit.
The Golden Eagles were able to turn up the heat defensively the final 15 minutes of the half and force the Bearcats into mistakes, turning nine Bearcats turnovers into 16 points.
“When we’re able to get turnovers and get in transition, it’s kind of hard for teams to stop us,” said Johnson-Odom.
The way the Bearcats responded to the pressure was really upsetting to Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, as he noted after the game.
“They turned up the heat, and we didn’t take care of the basketball,” said Cronin.” We played with toughness for about four minutes, and then the game became a lot more heated, and the tougher team won. They imposed their will on us.”
The result was a resounding run for MU, as they led 47-35 at halftime. Sophomore guard Jamail Jones made a key contribution in the first half, hitting two three-pointers and provided key minutes while Crowder and Wilson struggled with foul trouble.
While Jones’ offensive effort may have been a surprise to some fans in the crowd, Johnson-Odom wasn’t shocked by his output.
“[Jones] gives us a boost of energy that we definitely need off the bench,” said Johnson-Odom. “His basketball IQ is at a high level. For him to come in and hit those two 3’s, I think it was a great opportunity for us and for him.”
After the break, Cincinnati was able to hang around, coming as close as eight, 59-51 at the 14:06 mark. The Golden Eagles countered with a 17-6 run, pushing their lead to 19. The Bearcats never got closer than 15 the rest of the game.
Marquette shot 56.7 percent from the field, their third highest mark of the season. They also connected on 7-of-18 attempts from downtown. Meanwhile, Cincinnati shot just 43.3 percent from the field and missed their final nine three-point attempts.
Johnson-Odom hit 10-of-17 shots from the field including two-of-four from downtown. He made the Bearcats pay constantly by attacking the hoop in transition and in the half-court offense. Johnson-Odom added five assists and two steals in 35 minutes of play.
Following the game, MU coach Buzz Williams spoke highly of his seniors: Johnson-Odom and Crowder.
“For two guys that were never ranked by any scouting service, for them to be where they’re at in their careers speaks to who they are,” said Williams. “They’re two really good players that I think have a brighter future than any scouting service guy ever thought. I really enjoy coaching them.
MU continued to get a positive contribution two of their sophomores. Jamil Wilson scored 15 points and Vander Blue added 15 points, rounding out the double-digit scorers for the Golden Eagles. Blue has now hit in double figures in his last four games.
Dion Dixon and Cashmere Wright scored 15 points to lead five Bearcats scorers in double-digits. Yancy Gates registered his eight double-double of the season, scoring 11 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
With the win, Marquette has reached 10 wins in six of its seven seasons in the BIG EAST. The Golden Eagles also extended their home Big East record to a perfect 7-0. Cronin said after the game he didn’t think Marquette would lose at home again this season.
“You don’t come in here and win that easily,” said Cronin. ”That just doesn’t happen. You’re going to get their best shot.”
Marquette will now enjoy a week off before heading to Connecticut next Saturday.