MILWAUKEE—Marquette's previous two Big East games were a tale of two halves. They stayed with that theme on Wednesday night, outscoring St. John's by 20 points in the second to win 83-64.
Sophomore forward Davante Gardner put up career highs in points and rebounds, with 22 and 15, and senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom scored 18 of his 20 points in the first nine minutes of the second half to lead the Golden Eagles (13-4, 2-2).
The Red Storm (8-8, 2-3) had a one-point lead going into halftime, mainly due to Johnson-Odom and fellow senior Jae Crowder only playing a combined 20 minutes in the first due to foul trouble. When Marquette was able to get those two on the court for good in the second half, it was a game-changer
At the 12:52 mark of the second half, the Golden Eagles were only up five at 49-44. Then, two jumpers, a two and a three, from Johnson-Odom, catapulted a 20-3 run that put St. John's out of the game for good.
Assistant Coach Mike Dunlap (who was in charge of the Red Storm in place of Steve Lavin) noted that Marquette was much better in transition in the second half, recording 21 fast break points after just four in the first. Dunlap said that his team's turning the ball over and Marquette's aggressiveness led to his team's downfall.
"In the second half they were grittier," Dunlap said. "They came after us and we didn't do very well with that. A lot of our turnovers led to easy baskets, their field goal percentage went up and all the credit goes to Marquette."
Junior forward God's Gift Achiuwa led the Red Storm with 20 points and 7 rebounds, and the team's leading scorer, freshman Moe Harkless, added 17 points, with 15 coming in the second half.
The Golden Eagles have struggled putting together a full game recently, usually putting together only one good half. Fortunately for Marquette tonight, they were able to keep themselves in striking distance tonight because of Gardner's 14 first-half points.
Coach Buzz Williams said after the loss to Georgetown that he doesn't think Gardner could play over 30 minutes in a game.
However, Gardner played 34 minutes against St. John's, and put together a performance that his coach said was the reason Marquette won the game not only with his points but with his, and the rest of the team's, energy level every day.
"I thought he was the reason we won the game," Williams said. "I thought he was the reason we were able to hang in there in the first half. His energy level on a daily basis, our team's energy level, determines a lot for us."
The Golden Eagles put up a very impressive 56 points in the paint, with 34 of those coming in the second half. Because of their transition game and presence in the paint, MU was able to shoot 21-31 (68%) in the last twenty minutes.
As impressive as the second half may have been, Williams admitted he doesn't know why his team can only put together one good half.
"We have to figure out how we can play forty minutes," said Williams. "I don't have a concrete answer. I don't say anything different at halftime than I do before the game, and we don't practice any different in the first half of practice than the second half."
"If we can solve that, then I think we've solved our biggest issue," Marquette's coach concluded.
Marquette continues their Big East schedule with their next two games back at the Bradley Center. Their next is on Saturday, as they host the struggling Pittsburgh Panthers (who are 0-4 in Big East play after losing 62-39 to Rutgers on Wednesday night) at 1 pm.
MU weathers the Storm, beats St. John's 83-64
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