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Marquette takes sole possession of first place in Big East with win over Butler

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Golden Eagles overcome slow start to beat Butler

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette’s slow start against Butler on Wednesday night was, perhaps, understandable since the Golden Eagles were playing their first game since February 12 and that game was a routine blowout of DePaul. Neverthless, it’s very hard to stymie Steve Wojciechowski’s squad for an entire 40 minutes, and Butler was unable to do so. Marquette pulled away and wound up with a 79-69 victory in Milwaukee.

It was really just a short stretch that doomed Butler. The Bulldogs kept a slight lead throughout the first half and well into the second. Marquette chipped away at a glacial pace, eventually tying it up at 37-37. With 12:45 remaining in the game, Butler took a one-point lead on a pair of Kamar Baldwin free throws.

It would take more than five minutes for the Bulldogs to score again. Marquette tightened up its defense and went on an 11-0 run in which four different players scored. Butler was reeling by that point, and the lead ballooned to as much as 15 before Butler brought its full-court press. Some turnovers allowed Butler to whittle the lead down and ultimately lose by 10.

Markus Howard had a pretty standard Markus Howard performance—just 28 points, six rebounds, and two steals—although he did have seven turnovers. Theo John was a major key for Marquette, scoring 15 and dominating the paint with 11 boards and three blocks. Sam Hauser’s sudden burst in the second half after a quiet first period was also key.

Meanwhile, Butler’s offense was a disaster as it has been more often than not this year. Give Marquette some credit—Kamar Baldwin was really held in check, shooting just nine times and committing six turnovers. Sean McDermott had a career night with 27 points and eight rebounds, but the rest of the team struggled to find consistency.

With a stunning Villanova loss to Georgetown earlier in the day, this victory makes Marquette the top dog in the BIG EAST; Butler drops into a tie for sixth.


Up Next

Marquette next plays Providence on Saturday, February 23 @ 12:00 p.m. ET.

Butler next plays Providence on Tuesday, February 26 @ 7:00 p.m. ET.


Takeaways

Marquette: The Golden Eagles can do it on defense

In a game where Marquette was well defended and Markus Howard didn’t have one of his unconscious performances, defense won the game. Marquette trailed for a long time, but tough defense prevented the game from getting out of reach. When Butler hit an especially cold spell, the Golden Eagles struck quickly to take a commanding lead. Marquette teams in the past have struggled when the offense isn’t clicking—this year looks to be very different. Theo John is a major component of this—he made things difficult inside all night for the Dawgs who rely on a star guard (Baldwin) that makes his living in the paint.

Butler: Where are the stars?

If you would have told me before this game that a Bulldog would go into a hostile environment to play the conference’s leader and a nationally ranked team and come one triple short of a 30-piece, I would have guessed it was Kamar Baldwin. Maybe, by some miracle, it would be Jordan Tucker. But it was Sean McDermott on Wednesday night. McDermott, usually a sharpshooter, was doing it all—shooting, getting to the rim, getting to the line, and getting offensive putbacks. Where is this kind of effort from Baldwin and Tucker. McDermott scored more than those two combined. It’s no secret that Baldwin is supposed to be the star, but Tucker is supposed to be the talented scorer. Butler needs these two, but especially Baldwin, to start taking over games when it counts.