Survive and advance is the name of the game at this time of year, and that's exactly what YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles did tonight in the opening round of the Big East Tournament, outlasting the frantic Red Storm of St. John's, 101-93, tonight at Madison Square Garden.
Marquette had the lead at halftime thanks to a torrid start from Future All-Time Leading Scorer Haanif Cheatham -- who notched 12 points, including a reverse layup that featured more English than you'd see at a Premier League match -- and contributing efforts from Henry Ellenson (10 points, 6 rebounds) and Top 50 Recruit Jajuan Johnson (10 points, one massive hammer dunk). Sandy Cohen III even got into the act after a month's long exile on the bench, and MU took full advantage of 11 first-half turnovers by the Johnnies, turning those TOs into 20 points en route to a 50-38 advantage at intermission.
This being Marquette, YOUR Golden Eagles weren't interested in putting this game to bed and letting their starters get some rest, and somehow St. John's trimmed what had been a 17-point lead all the way down to 3 with five minutes to go. Marquette's offense featured a whole lot of "give the ball to Henry and get out of the way" in the last 10 minutes of the second half, which concluded in unsurprisingly poor results -- seriously, Coach Wojo: whatever that was, it wasn't an offense -- and two free throws from Christian Jones trimmed MU's lead to 2 with four minutes to play.
The Red Storm claimed the lead on a Ron Mvouika 3, but Ellenson answered with a triple of his own, and, in case we didn't mention it yet, ST. JOHN'S WENT 1-17 IN CONFERENCE THIS YEAR AND MARQUETTE WAS UP 17 IN THE SECOND HALF.
Anyway, in a game that saw 50+ fouls called, a bunch of players then fouled out -- not at once, although that would've been kind of neat -- and Marquette put the game away at the line, hitting 6 of 7 throws down the stretch (and 38 of 43 for the game!) to claim a hard-fought, if unnecessarily hard-fought, victory.
Ellenson led the way with 27 and 14, Johnson wasn't far behind with 23 and 5 (and 5 steals). Duane Wilson chipped in 14 before fouling out, and Cheatham gutted his way to 19.
With the win, Marquette advances to play second-seeded Xavier tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. CST.