Marquette avoids setback with come-from-behind win over St. John’s

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Wilson scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half (Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@mu.edu)

It was a tighter game than expected against the last place St. John’s Red Storm, but for Marquette, a win is a win.

Despite looking nothing like the team that took down No. 8 Providence in the first half against the Red Storm, Marquette was able to get room inside for big men Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer and heat up from three-point range in the second half for an 81-75 comeback win against the Johnnies.

“There isn’t one way that you’re going to draw it up,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “If you look on the floor, we’ve got a lot of young kids that are learning. They showed the resolve to win it. We were able to win a game that we didn’t play our best.”

As Henry Ellenson goes, the Golden Eagles go. He recorded yet another double-double (15 points, 10 boards) but scored only two points during the Golden Eagles’ frustrating first half. He had a difficult time taking on freshman forward Kassoum Yakwe, who played the best game of his career thus far in his first career start. He had nine points, 11 rebounds and six blocks and helped force Ellenson commit six turnovers.

From the tipoff the offense was running through Luke Fischer, who led the team in scoring with 18 points. He was in foul trouble the whole game, limiting his rebounds to two (zero defensive rebounds) against St. John’s backup center Christian Jones. He fouled out with a minute and 43 seconds remaining.

Haanif Cheatham played to his strengths, scoring 15 points on continuous drives to the lane. Traci Carter played strong defense and led the team with eight assists, but once again struggled with reckless turnovers, giving the ball away five times.

Duane Wilson had one of his better games this season. He shot 4-for-9 from three point range and scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half.

“Coach told me to keep being positive,” Wilson said. “(He said) don’t stop shooting the ball. That’s what he wanted me to do, shoot. The second half, it just started falling.”

It was another sloppy game for a Marquette. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over 20 times despite just six St. John’s steals. The Red Storm came into the game eighth in turnover margin in the BIG EAST, averaging 1.6 more turnovers than their opponent a game. Today, they had 18 turnovers, two less than the Golden Eagles.

The first half couldn’t have gone much worse for the Golden Eagles. Marquette looked like a team facing a big win hangover in the first half, shooting only 38 percent from the field, turning the ball over ten times and allowing St. John’s to shoot 7-for-11 from three-point range. Marquette trailed by eight at the half, 39-31.

“We missed in the first half six layups off the top of my head,” Wojciechowski said. “We missed a number of open threes. Maybe that’s guys trying to play too well. Maybe they’re pressing.”

Fortunes changed in the second half – the Golden Eagles went from a 2-for-10 from three in the first half to 5-for-8 in the second. Ellenson was able get much better position, and every player minus Fischer and Cheatham scored more in the second frame than the first.

Marquette hit its final five field goal attempts, securing its second straight conference victory and moving the team back to .500 in the BIG EAST, currently seventh in the conference.

Jajuan Johnson left the game late in the first half after taking a shot to the head. Wojciechowski said team doctors don’t think it’s a concussion, but he didn’t feel comfortable putting him back into the game when Johnson told him he had a headache.

Marquette has a tough test in its next two games, playing No. 11 Villanova and No. 10 Xavier before students return for the spring semester.