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No. 11 Marquette overcomes sluggish start to avoid upset vs. Butler

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No. 11 Marquette overcomes sluggish start to avoid upset vs. Butler

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

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As Sam Hauser got space from defender Jordan Tucker in the second half against Butler Wednesday night, he slammed an easy two-handed dunk. The bench had to be held back from coming any farther onto the court.

“Hey, that dunk was crazy,” sophomore center Theo John said. “He has that athleticism. … I love to see it.”

The rest of Marquette’s evening did not come quite as easily, but a second-half comeback helped the No. 11 Golden Eagles dodge an upset against the Bulldogs, winning 79-69.

Marquette could not hold onto a lead for more than a minute until well into the second half. The Golden Eagles’ normally-potent offense started the game 13 for 35 from the field.

“Butler came ready to play,” John said. “They punched us in the mouth.”

Even junior guard Markus Howard, who routinely drops 30-plus points, went almost 15 minutes between field goals in the first half.

“I’m not sure we’ve had a team play as hard against us in Fiserv as Butler did,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “The first half, it felt like a March Madness type of game. Their pace of play and how hard they were running their offense and their physicality really knocked us back.”

After Butler went on a 7-0 run to start the second half, Marquette’s offense finally found its rhythm. The Golden Eagles outscored the Bulldogs 49-32 in the final 17 minutes to improve to sole possession of first place in the BIG EAST.

“We rebooted, and our guys responded out of that (under-16) timeout,” Wojciechowski said.

Marquette hit 14 of its last 21 shots and had its highest-scoring second half since its Jan. 20 win over Providence.

Howard and Hauser went from scoring a combined 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting in the first half to a combined 28 points on 9-for-16 shooting in the second half.

Howard had two four-point plays, hitting 3-pointers and drawing a foul.

“We call that the Rowsey,” John said. “(Andrew Rowsey) did that a lot last year with his pump fake and everything.”

Despite seven turnovers, Howard finished the game with a team-high 28 points on 45-percent shooting.

When shots weren’t falling for most of the Golden Eagles early on, John was one of the few consistent offensive options. He finished one point shy of a career high, scoring 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Wojciechowski attributed some of John’s success to Butler having to draw extra attention to Howard.

“Teams have to dedicate a lot to Markus Howard in particular, and a lot of times, the second defender on Markus is the opposing team’s center,” Wojciechowski said. “When we got the ball out of the trap, Theo was open. … To his credit, he was able to finish.”

Sean McDermott led Butler with 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting. No other Bulldog had more than 12 points.

“He’s like the Energizer bunny,” Wojciechowski said. “He just keeps moving and moving and moving.”

Marquette will look to extend its winning streak Saturday at Providence. The last time Marquette visited the Friars, Howard scored 52 points, which was a record at the time.

“We just have to attack (Providence),” John said.

In the meantime, Wojciechowski did not seem quite as impressed with Hauser’s highlight play.

“It wouldn’t have won the dunk contest,” Wojciechowski joked.

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About the Writer
John Steppe, Executive Sports Editor

John Steppe is the executive sports editor for the Marquette Wire. He is a junior majoring in journalism and double-minoring in digital media and Spanish....

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