Marquette officially turned around its slow start in BIG EAST play with an 82-68 win over St. John’s at Fiserv Forum last night.
The victory puts Marquette (14-5, 4-3 BIG EAST) above the .500 mark in conference action for the first time this season and makes it a winner of three-straight.
In what’s becoming a predictable occurrence, Markus Howard led all scorers in the game, living up to his current status as the nation’s top collegiate scorer with 32 points. However, Marquette is much tougher to beat when secondary weapons like Sacar Anim and Koby McEwen hit shots as well. Anim scored 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including four threes on a career-high 11 attempts, while McEwen fell just one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine boards, playing a team-best 38 minutes. Reserve transfer Jayce Johnson also appears to be healthy, adjusting to BIG EAST play and making a case for a spot in the starting lineup, as he collected nine rebounds in just 15 minutes.
While most of the first half pointed to a back-and-forth game, St. John’s (12-8, 1-6 BIG EAST) got on shaky ground when Marquette went on a 10-0 run late in the half to go up, 35-29. At the start of the second half, a sequence where Red Storm guard Nick Rutherford fouled Howard while shooting a three, then drew a technical foul for demonstratively running to the other end of the court and screaming in frustration, afforded Howard the rare chance to hit five-straight free throws to start the post-halftime scoring and put Marquette up 11, 42-31.
While St. John’s went on its own 12-3 run in the second half to pull within two, 62-60 with 8:08 remaining, the Red Storm shot just 3-for-17 the remainder of the night. Up 70-65 with 3:58 left, Marquette reeled off a 7-0 run in just over three minutes of game time to salt away the victory.
Mustapha Heron led St. John’s with 18 points, L.J. Figueroa had 13 and Julian Champagnie garnered nine rebounds.
Marquette’s single win in its first four BIG EAST games may have been more due to the quality of competition it opened against than its ability. Five teams, not including Marquette, stand at .500 or better at the conclusion of last night’s action. The only one Marquette didn’t face in its first four conference games was Butler, whom it will face Friday in Indianapolis. MU’s three games since have come against Georgetown, Xavier and St. John’s, who are now collectively 4-14 in BIG EAST action. Marquette won those games by an average of nearly 13 points apiece.
The Butler game will tip off at 8 p.m. CST. The Bulldogs entered the week ranked 13th in the nation, but have lost their last three games, albeit with two coming against fellow top-25 teams, Seton Hall and Villanova.