It was a weird one, it was a bit of a wild one, but at the end of the day, Marquette Golden Eagles men’s basketball was high fiving and smiling at the final horn after securing a 76-72 victory over DePaul Blue Demons. The Golden Eagles are now 16-6 on the season and 6-4 in Big East play.
The story of the first half is one part Markus Howard and one part DePaul doing pretty much anything they wanted on offense. MU’s star senior guard missed the late stretch of Wednesday night’s overtime win over Xavier after getting elbowed in the face, and while sporting a mask to protect a fractured nose, he went for 21 points on 6-for-13 shooting in the opening 20 minutes, including 5-for-12 from long range. The problem was that was all MU had going for them on offense in the first 20 minutes, as the rest of the team went 0-for-9 from long range and 5-for-15 overall. Combine that with DePaul posting an effective field goal percentage of 60%, and that’s you get a Blue Demon lead of 40-34 at the break.
Howard’s numbers in the second half: 10 points on 2-for-8 shooting, including misses on all three long range attempts. And yet, by the time things were all said and done, Marquette would outscore the Blue Demons by 10 points in the second half. How? Well, a lot of the credit there goes to Koby McEwen. The redshirt junior was huge for Marquette down the stretch against Xavier, but he was limited to just three first half minutes after two quick fouls. He apparently took that as a massive insult and seemed determined to do whatever was necessary to get Marquette this win. Primarily, this was getting to the rim nearly at will. McEwen ended up with 13 free throw attempts in the second half, and he made 11 of them to get to 13 points in the stanza.
Still, even with McEwen doing damage to DePaul’s foul totals, it seemed that Marquette was just falling short of breaking through over and over and over and over. Trim the lead to three, let it go back to eight. Tie the game at 50, let DePaul go up three. Tie it at 53, allow the Blue Demons to score six straight.
Believe it or not, this was just the first 11 minutes of the second half.
Down to three, DePaul answered. Down to three again, Jaylen Butz splits a pair of freebies to make it a four point game.
Three straight free throws from Theo John and another one from McEwen knotted the game back up at 66, but now there were under four minutes to play. Time just kept zipping by and MU just couldn’t find a way into the lead. DePaul’s Paul Reed scored, Marquette answered with two freebies from Howard. Charlie Moore got to the rim to put the Blue Demons up again, and again, two free throws from Howard tied it up.
FINALLY, with just 1:22 to play, Marquette finally pushed out in front as Markus Howard drove and hit a step back to get a 72-70 lead. Things didn’t get very easy from there as the Golden Eagles had their share of problems, including a whackadoodle layup attempt by Howard that missed everything and there was an accidental shot clock reset that led to an inbound with two seconds left on the shot clock and a rushed shot attempt to avoid the violation. So goofy. Still, DePaul couldn’t manage to put it in the net, other than a free throw by Reed, and that let Marquette salt the game away at the free throw line themselves.
Howard finished with a 21 point night that only looks kind of okay at 8-for-21, but his five three-point makes ends up making it fine. He added two rebounds and four assists, which is nice. McEwen added nine rebounds and three assists, seven and two of which came after halftime. Theo John and Jayce Johnson made a formidable inside pairing again, combining for 16 points, 10 rebounds, and a block.
How about some highlights, courtesy of Fox Sports Wisconsin and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Seven straight days off. Marquette won’t be in action again until Sunday, February 9th, when Butler comes to town. The Bulldogs got clanked at home by Providence on Saturday to fall to 5-4 in league play, and they will have to host Villanova on Wednesday before making their way to Milwaukee.