Fifth place in the Big East Conference was up for grabs Tuesday night at the Bradley Center and Marquette (20-9, 11-6 Big East) ripped it away from Louisville (19-11, 10-7 Big East), defeating the Cardinals 69-48.
“I thought our guys played with great passion and great togetherness,” coach Buzz Williams said. “I thought it was the best we had been defensively in a long time … I’m really, really thankful and happy for our guys.”
Early on it didn’t look promising for the Golden Eagles when floor leaders Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler each picked up two fouls in the first half.
With the two forwards sidelined for the last five minutes of the half and the Golden Eagles clinging to a 22-20 lead, the Golden Eagles finished the half on an impressive 11-3 run and went into halftime leading 33-23.
“We know Lazar and Jimmy are our leaders so we had to pick it up on both ends,” sophomore guard Darius Johnson-Odom said. “Louisville has great size, great athletes and great talent so for us we had to play a lot harder without those two guys in.”
Out of the break, Marquette broke away from Louisville holding the Cardinals scoreless for the first seven minutes of the second frame. During that time Marquette rolled off 13 straight points to build its largest lead of the game of 23 points.
Johnson-Odom, who threw down a powerful dunk with 33 seconds remaining, led all players in scoring and rebounding with 22 and seven, respectively.
Louisville leading scorer, 6-foot-9 Samardo Samuels, was frustrated all night by the Golden Eagles interior defense. Samuels finished with four points on 2-of-5 shooting and turned the ball over five times.
Marquette, which has won nine of its last 10 games, snapped its four-game losing streak to the Cardinals.
“Since we’ve been here, me, (Lazar Hayward) and (David Cubillan), we weren’t able to get a win against (Louisville) so tonight would be the night,” senior guard Maurice Acker said. “It was just a great feeling after the game and a big relief to be able to beat them, especially at home.”
Marquette closes out the regular season Saturday afternoon when the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame come to the Bradley Center. Hayward, Acker and Cubillan will celebrate senior night in front of an already sold out crowd.