Marquette spoils DePaul’s Senior Night, avoids season sweep

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Redshirt junior guard Greg Elliott (5) shoots a jumper during Marquette’s matchup with the DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday night (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Although it was not the prettiest game by any means, the Marquette Golden Eagles headed down I-94 to Wintrust Arena Tuesday night and snuck out with a 77-71 win over the DePaul Blue Demons on their Senior Night.

This was the second game between these two teams after the Golden Eagles fell to the Blue Demons at home Jan. 23. That was DePaul’s first of two conference wins.

Right before the game it was announced Theo John would be a game-time decision because he was feeling under the weather. First-year forward Justin Lewis, who had been out for four games from Feb. 10 to Feb. 24, replaced him.

“Our team not having Theo available tonight, that’s a big loss for us. Theo’s been such a rock for us,” head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “We had a number of guys step up in his absence and have his back. … Theo does a lot for us and he handles the vast majority of guarding post players so it was a little bit different for both Dawson (Garcia) and Justin.”

Though John came in for two minutes, he ultimately did not look himself.

“He wanted to dress and give it a shot,” Wojciechowski said. “I wanted to see early in the game if maybe the adrenaline of the game could spark him to feel better. But watching him out there for the short period of time he was out there, he just was not himself.”

Much of the first half was back-and-forth action between the two teams with neither taking a commanding lead. However, the Golden Eagles started taking control after the 14-minute mark passed.

MU possessed their largest lead of nine points with 12:55 remaining in the first and by the under-12 timeout, the Golden Eagles had made five of their last seven shots to lead 18-11.

DePaul slowly edged back into the game and although Marquette was shooting 11-for-19 from the field and 44% from three, they were only up 28-26.

Both teams struggled toward the latter half of the first and at the break the score was knotted at 36 apiece. Senior forward Jamal Cain could not convert his corner three to take the lead at the buzzer. MU ended the half making one of their last seven shots, while DPU was on a scoring drought for over two minutes.

At the half, redshirt senior forward Koby McEwen paced the team with eight points, while Jose Perez, Greg Elliott and Dawson Garcia all contributed six.

Sophomore guard D.J. Carton scored just three points through the first 20 minutes. But after halftime, he heated up. The Bettendorf, Iowa native scored 17 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists.

“I’ve been struggling recently scoring the ball,” Carton said. “I played real patiently and took what the game gave me and without my teammates keeping my head up and being there for me when things got hard, it wouldn’t be able to happen.”

Both the Golden Eagles and Blue Demons struggled in the beginning of the second half. They ended up going a combined 3-for-22 from 3-point range after halftime.

At the under-16 timeout, Marquette led just 41-38 and both teams were sloppy on the offensive end. The teams combined for seven points and were 2-for-11 from the floor.

The offensive struggles continued until the 7:42 mark, when the Golden Eagles were on a 6-0 run. The Blue Demons had committed five turnovers and were on a 3:49 scoring drought.

A few seconds later, DePaul’s Romeo Weems notched the Blue Demons’ only double-double. Marquette still led 51-48.

The Golden Eagles went on an offensive surge in the last four minutes as Carton and Elliott combined for 10 points in just 2:01 to possess a 68-59 advantage.

During the last two minutes, DePaul did not go away, though. The Blue Demons cut the lead down to five with 18 seconds remaining, but clutch free throws by McEwen and Carton secured the road win for Marquette.

Besides Carton, there were three other Golden Eagles who scored in double digits: Garcia and McEwen pitched in 12 points, while Elliott contributed 11 points. McEwen had a team-high four assists. Cain scored nine points and had a team-best nine rebounds. In total, MU’s bench scored 20 points.

“Our bench has done a lot for us this year and that’s always huge especially with how deep we are,” Carton said. “We’re going to need that throughout the rest of this postseason coming and the following year, so I’m proud of them and definitely want them to keep that s–t up.”

For DePaul, Pauly Paulicap, who only averaged 6.9 points a game prior to the matchup, tied Carton with a game-high 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting. The Golden Eagles held the Blue Demons’ leading scorer, Charlie Moore, to nine points on 4-for-16 from the field and 1-for-9 from three.

“In the first game, half their points were (scored) by Charlie Moore and (Javon) Freeman-Liberty,” Wojciechowski said. “I thought (D.J.’s) defense on Charlie Moore was terrific. … For a guy that’s as dangerous as Charlie Moore, it takes a team effort. I thought our guys competed defensively.”

The Golden Eagles (12-13, 7-11 BIG EAST) finish out the regular season at Fiserv Forum as the team hosts the Xavier Musketeers for a combined National Marquette Day and Senior Day March 6. The game is slated for 8 p.m. Central Standard Time and there will be 1,800 fans in attendance. For the first time in Wojciechowski’s tenure, Marquette does not have a winning record at home.

“It’s unheard of for a high-major team to have six road games in a row,” Wojciechowski said. “It’s literally been a month where we’ve been on a road. Our guys have handled that pretty darn well all things considered with some of the adversity that we’ve gone through.”

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu or on Twitter @zoe_comerford