Golden Eagles run Bulls out of their own building

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Like it had against Louisville, Marquette started fast on the road at South Florida. But this time, the Golden Eagles held on thanks to their swarming defense and some highlight-reel play at the offensive end.

After a sloppy first three minutes in which Marquette missed its first three field goals, the Golden Eagles took flight in what coach Buzz Williams called the best first half of the season.

“I thought in the first half at both ends of the floor you could argue it’s the best first half we’ve had,” Williams said.

Junior forward Jamil Wilson hit a free throw to cap a 13-3 run to open the game for Marquette, and the Golden Eagles kept rolling from there, never looking back.

Sophomore guard Todd Mayo scored all 13 of his points in the first half as Marquette made almost double the amount of field goals the Bulls managed. While South Florida knocked down just five of its 18 first half attempts, The Golden Eagles buried fourteen, including three 3-pointers.

It all added up to a commanding 39-16 halftime lead.

After past issues had caused Williams to sit Mayo out for considerable amounts of playing time, the coach was happy with his night.

“The bench teaches a lot of lessons,” Williams said.

While he had a down night compared to his last outing against the Bulls, junior guard Vander Blue stepped up in the second half scoring nine points, including a three-pointer that extended his streak to 11 straight games with a make from beyond the arc.

The Golden Eagles ended up running away with the 70-47 win, as South Florida never came within less than 20 points in the second half.

The offense was efficient enough with 13 assists on 23 made field goals, but it was the defense that came up big for Marquette.

While the battle of the boards ended in a 29-29 tie, the Golden Eagles forced 22 turnovers and capitalized with 28 points off those turnovers.

Marquette got lifts from Wilson and Chris Otule as the duo combined for 16 points, and seven rebounds. Williams was particularly impressed with Otule’s impact on and off the stat sheet.

“There’s a level of confidence that Chris played with tonight that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet,” Williams said. “He’s opening up lanes and he’s a good defensive presence at the rim. While he’s not always blocking shots he’s changing shots. He understands when to seal off a lane relative to where the ball is and how it’s moving.”

Winning on the road is never easy in the Big East, Williams said, and building an early lead helped Marquette grab a rare easy victory. Getting out to fast starts will be a huge focal point as five of Marquette’s last nine games will take place away from the Bradley Center.

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