MU Keeps Driving: 4 BE Conference Games to Go
Hayward had five points until the final minute of regulation but scored eight after that, including the three that tied the game at 67 apiece and forced the extra session. He added the other five in overtime, for a key road win over a fellow Big East bubble team that brought the Golden Eagles to 17-9 overall, 8-6 in the Big East.
Nobody knows where that leaves the team in the pecking order for a spot in the field of 64. But with a pair of road games this week against St. John's and Seton Hall on tap, it does leave the team in reasonably good position.
The Golden Eagles enter the week tied for sixth place in the Big East with Georgetown. More importantly, Marquette is two games ahead of everyone else, well-removed, at least for now, from the five-team logjam at 6-8. It has wins in five of its last six games, three of which came on the road.
And, more importantly, with every win Marquette is doing more and more to put that series of heartbreaking losses that caused it to get off to a 2-5 start in Big East play in the rear-view mirror. Few would have thought it would be in this position after beginning the year so poorly, but Marquette is doing a great job of playing itself into strong consideration for an at-large berth.
--Marquette finished the Cincinnati game 16-for-17 from the free throw line. The only attempt it missed came from Jimmy Butler in overtime.
-- Maurice Acker leads the Big East in assists/turnover ratio, and had another great game against Cincinnati, dishing out six assists without committing a single turnover.
ON THE SPOT: The victory over Cincinnati was huge, but one object of concern for Buzz Williams had to be how his team responded to being challenged by the Bearcats. Marquette had a 31-18 lead in the first half, but then was unable to respond to the sudden burst of Bearcat energy that led to a 21-2 run that ended the first half.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Every game is going to be a possession game, and I think we've finished more possessions in the last two (road) games than the previous five. Not just at the end of the games, but possessions throughout the game -- on both ends of the floor." -â?? Marquette coach Buzz Williams to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, before embarking on the three-game Big East road trip that began Feb. 21 at Cincinnati.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Marquette improved its record to 8-6 in the Big East with the overtime victory over Cincinnati on Feb. 21. That left the Golden Eagles in a sixth-place tie with Georgetown, with four games remaining in the regular season.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Lazar Hayward, G/F Jimmy Butler, G Darius Johnson-Odom, G David Cubillan, G Maurice Acker. Key Subs -- F Joseph Fulce, G Dwight Buycks, G Junior Cadougan, F Erik Williams.
Marquette 63, South Florida 52
Pittsburgh 58, Marquette 51
Marquette 79, Cincinnati 76 (OT)
at St. John's, Wednesday, Feb. 24
at Seton Hall, Sunday, Feb. 28
vs. Louisville, Tuesday, March 2
vs. Notre Dame, Saturday, March 6
IN FOCUS: The Golden Eagles have a huge road game Feb. 24 against a desperate St. John's team. It may be tempting for Marquette to look ahead to its Feb. 28 game at Seton Hall, as the Pirates currently are closer competition for Marquette in its quest for an NCAA Tournament berth, but the Johnnies are playing good basketball and have the size and strength to stifle the Golden Eagles on offense.
--F Lazar Hayward tied former teammate Jerel McNeal for the top spot on the school's all-time games played list when he took the court against Cincinnati. The senior forward has played in 130 games as a Golden Eagle.
--F Joe Fulce gave Marquette a rare burst of offense off the bench in the victory over the Bearcats. He tied his career high with 13 points in his 15 minutes on the court.
--G Darius Johnson-Odom took on more of the scoring load against Cincinnati, as F Lazar Hayward was struggling to get untracked. Johnson-Odom had 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting, and knocked down three three-pointers.
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