The Marquette men’s basketball team held on to beat St. John’s 57-55 in the second round of the Big East Tournament Wednesday.
The win put the Golden Eagles in the quarterfinals against Villanova, but coach Buzz Williams isn’t taking any games for granted.
“I want to savor every minute with these guys,” Williams said.
Marquette started the game with five straight 3-pointers from every starter except Jimmy Butler, who checked out of the game with two fouls at the 17:54 mark in the first half.
Marquette led 27-17 at halftime, holding St. John’s to just 29.6 percent from the field. Senior Lazar Hayward had 12 points in the opening stanza to lead all scorers.
The Red Storm, however, came out with a new attitude and intensity after halftime.
St. John’s tied the game with a leaning, shot-clock-beating 3-pointer from D.J. Kennedy with 8:11 to play. Back-to-back dunks from junior Justin Brownlee gave the Red Storm their first lead at 46-42 with 7:07 left in the game.
Marquette answered with a 3-pointer from senior Maurice Acker to cut the Red Storm’s lead to one. After Sean Evans hit an easy layup, Hayward pulled the trigger on an NBA-range 3-pointer to tie it at 48 with just over five minutes left.
The teams traded baskets before Anthony Mason Jr. hit one of two from the free throw line to give the Red Storm a 53-52 lead. Then with 1:10 left in the game, David Cubillan countered with a clutch 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Marquette a 55-53 lead it never relinquished.
“The play was designed for Zar,” Cubillan said. “They cheated on the play, and I got the shot.”
Hayward knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the lead to four points. The ensuing Red Storm possession came up empty and St. John’s was forced to foul Jimmy Butler with 20 seconds left. Butler missed the front end of the one-and-one that gave St. John’s a glimmer of hope. After a scramble from St. John’s, Kennedy got his own rebound and put it back with 4.1 seconds left in the game.
Acker missed the front end of the bonus free throws, leaving the door ajar. Malik Boothe took a couple dribbles before heaving a 50-footer that came up short, sealing the victory for the Golden Eagles.
“I didn’t think we were any good at all in the second half,” Williams said. “If it was based solely on the second half, they deserved to win the game.
“We made big plays at both ends of the floor, and we got lucky to win the game.”
Hayward led Marquette with 20 points and nine rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting but said the team was too stagnant and passive in the second half.
The Golden Eagles play No. 4 seed Villanova at 1 p.m. today. A win would land them in the semifinals Friday night, but Williams is careful not to look too far ahead.
“They haven’t played since Saturday,” he said of Villanova. “You saw how hard we had to work today.”