After Marquette got off to another patented slow start, the Golden Eagles responded with a 43-17 run for the rest of the first half en route to a 95-78 victory over Cincinnati Saturday afternoon.
After a Dion Dixon layup gave Cincinnati (17-8, 7-5 Big East) a 16-4 lead just 4:41 into the game, Marquette (21-5, 10-3 Big East) responded by rattling off eight straight points, eventually taking the lead for good at 25-24 after a Todd Mayo free throw with 8:27 left in the first half.
The double-digit deficit — and subsequent Marquette victory — marked the fifth time this season that the Golden Eagles have rallied from trailing by double digits in the first half to win.
“I think that speaks to who our guys are, and I think that that speaks to that I’m doing a bad job of preparing them,” coach Buzz Williams said. “I think the other thing is that our guys get tired of maybe not garnering the respect that they feel as though they deserve.”
For the game, Marquette shot 56.7 percent, its third highest shooting percentage of the season, and allowed Cincinnati to shoot just 43.3 percent.
The Golden Eagles’ 95 points were by far the most an opponent has scored against Cincinnati this year, topping the 78 points Villanova scored in the Bearcats’ 82-78 win on Jan. 14.
Marquette employed a three-quarter-court press for about five minutes in the first half that frustrated Cincinnati, which led to nine first-half turnovers for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati entered the game averaging just 10.8 turnovers per game, but it totaled 14 against the Golden Eagles. Bearcats’ coach Mick Cronin attributed the turnovers to his team not being mentally ready to play the game.
“They turned up the heat and we didn’t take care of the basketball,” Cronin said. “If we were ready to play, we wouldn’t have had guys who are good players turning the ball over.”
Senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom and senior forward Jae Crowder each scored nine points in the first half, and each finished with 23 overall.
The duo combined to shoot 18-of-30 from the field and had a combined nine of Marquette’s 22 assists.
When sophomore forward Jamil Wilson picked up his second foul with 7:48 remaining in the first half, sophomore guard Jamail Jones was given a chance to make an impact for the second time in three games.
Jones responded with back-to-back 3-pointers, just his fourth and fifth of the season, to give Marquette a 38-30 lead with 4:22 left in the first half.
“My teammates always give me a boost of confidence,” Jones said. “I come in every day in practice and work, and I’m always thinking my name is going to be called when I come into the game.”
Cincinnati’s early first-half fumbles led to 16 Marquette points. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, turned the ball over just three times in the first half, surrendering only five points to the Bearcats in that category.
Dixon and junior guard JaQuon Parker each picked up 15 points to lead Cincinnati in scoring.
Wilson and sophomore guard Vander Blue joined Johnson-Odom and Crowder in double digits, scoring 15 and 14 points, respectively.
It was Blue’s fourth consecutive game scoring in double digits, after reaching double digits in Big East play just once last season in a 94-64 blowout win against DePaul.
Cincinnati entered the game eighth in the nation and second in the Big East in rebounding margin (+4.1) and outrebounded Marquette 42-29, including 21-8 on the offensive glass.
“I really don’t think our (lack of size) makes a difference,” Johnson-Odom said. “We’re going to be the tougher team anyway.”