MU turns its Attention to UCONN

GETTING INSIDE The next four games are critical for the Golden Eagles. Marquette's next opponent, the Huskies, are a talented but inconsistent team that the Golden Eagles have had some success against in the past. That is followed by games against DePaul, Providence and South Florida, three teams already out of the NCAA Tournament race barring an unexpected dominant February.

Next up for coach Buzz Williams and his team is the task of carrying this effort forward into the next few games on the schedule.

Marquette is 3-5 in Big East play heading into Saturday's game at Connecticut and has yet to win consecutive conference games this season. A three-point win over Georgetown was followed by a loss at Villanova, while a 30-point blowout of Providence saw the team turn around and hand DePaul its first conference victory in more than a year the next time out.

Marquette has already faced the toughest portion of its schedule. Apart from the Huskies and a home game with Pitt on Feb. 18, it doesn't face a ranked team again all season. So the 3-5 record isn't a death sentence for the team's postseason hopes if Marquette can use the victory over Rutgers as a springboard to better things in the second half of the Big East season.

MARQUETTE 82, RUTGERS 59: The Golden Eagles jumped out to a big early lead and cruised from there to move to 3-5 in Big East play and keep the Scarlet Knights winless in the Big East.

Marquette jumped out to a 44-21 lead at halftime on its way to ending a two-game losing streak. The nation's best 3-point shooting team did much of its damage from beyond the arc, going 9-for-17 from long range.

Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler led the team with 16 points. Maurice Acker went 4-5 from 3-point range on his way to a 14-point night, and Lazar Hayward had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

NOTES, QUOTES

-Marquette went to a triangle-and-two defense against Syracuse in the second half, playing man-to-man defense on Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins and having the remaining players in a three-man zone. It didn't prove to be very effective, especially with the 6-2 David Cubillan guarding the 6-7 Johnson.

--Buzz Williams inserted Joe Fulce back into his starting lineup for the Syracuse game. The team had gone to a smaller look in the previous three games, replacing Fulce with an extra guard.

ON THE SPOT: A big win over Rutgers may look pretty in the results column, but a similar blowout of Providence on Jan. 17 did not lead to a winning streak -- in fact, the Golden Eagles lost the two games between that contest and the one against the Scarlet Knights. Turning the Big East victory into a trend is the next challenge for Marquette.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We came into this game thinking we're the underdogs and keep fighting, because nothing's ever given to us. We've got to earn everything that we want. I think we definitely did that in the first half. We got away from that in the second half and they went on a little run and it was kind of hard to get it back. But we got back to doing that in the last 3:00, and you saw how we came back. It wasn't enough, but it's because we fight. That's what we're trained to do every day. Every day we go against each other like there's no tomorrow. Nobody wants to lose at anything. That's what we've got to do for 40 minutes -- not just 20, 37, 39. We've got to do it every minute of every game." -- Marquette forward Jimmy Butler to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel after the loss to Syracuse.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: Stop reading if you've heard this one, but the Golden Eagles suffered two more brutal Big East losses last week, blowing a lead and losing on a desperation heave against DePaul and seeing a furious comeback fall short at Syracuse. That left the team with a 2-5 record through seven Big East games, with the largest margin of defeat in any of them being five points.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Joseph Fulce, F Lazar Hayward, G/F Jimmy Butler, G Darius Johnson-Odom, G David Cubillan. Key Subs -- G Maurice Acker, G Dwight Buycks, G Junior Cadougan, F Erik Williams.

GAME REVIEW:

Marquette 93, Providence 63

DePaul 51, Marquette 50

Syracuse 76, Marquette 71

Marquette 82, Rutgers 59

GAME PREVIEW:

at Connecticut, Saturday, Jan. 30

vs. DePaul, Wednesday, Feb. 3

at Providence, Saturday, Feb. 6

vs. South Florida, Saturday. Feb. 13

IN FOCUS: The Golden Eagles got well against Rutgers, but doesn't everyone? They have yet to win consecutive conference games, so a win at UConn would be big.

ROSTER REPORT:

--G Junior Cadougan played seven minutes in his second game since suffering a ruptured Achilles in September. He scored two points on a pair of free throws.

--G Maurice Acker continued his torrid 3-point shooting in Big East play by going 4-for-5 against Rutgers. In eight Big East games, he has made 18 of his 23 attempts, or 78 percent.


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