ROSEMONT, IL. –All five starters for the Marquette Golden Eagles reached double figures, as they fought back from a first half deficit that reached as high as 12, to come back and beat the DePaul Blue Demons, 89-76.
DePaul (11-12, 2-9) started out on the front foot with loads of energy. Freshman Charles McKinney scored the Blue Demons’ first four points, with the first two coming from a steal off of Marquette junior guard Junior Cadougan, just four seconds after tip-off.
The Blue Demons stayed on top for a while, mounting a 17-8 lead with 15:23 left in the first off a three-pointer by sophomore Moses Morgan.
Marquette would cut the lead to one a couple times later in the first, with the latest coming at 26-25 with 9:23 left in the first after two free throws from Johnson-Odom.
DePaul took control again, going on a 16-3 run over the next 4:53, to take a 41-29 lead.
Then, it was the Golden Eagles’ turn to make another run, finishing the half outscoring the Blue Demons 11-2, including a scoring surge from Johnson-Odom. The senior scored nine straight points for the Golden Eagles, which were followed by two late free throws from senior Jae Crowder, to make the score 43-40 at the half, in favor of DePaul.
Johnson-Odom tends to score primarily in spurts, and according to Marquette Coach Buzz Williams, his nine-point outburst showed how great of a scorer he can be.
“He’s hard to guard. He can shoot, he’s explosive,” Williams said. “When he’s in a good rhythm mentally and emotionally, he’s a really hard player to guard physically.”
Johnson-Odom said that he wants to penetrate as much as he can so his team can get to the free throw line as much as possible. That worked tonight for the Golden Eagles, as they shot 22 of 23 from the line as a team.
“My mentality is to try to get to the paint, and try to get in the bonus as quick as possible,” Johnson-Odom said. “That’s when we’re a real good team: when we’re able to shoot free throws and stop the clock. When we’re able to get paint touches and force the other team to foul, we’re real good.”
The senior guard continued his scoring binge to start the second half, hitting a three on Marquette’s first possession to tie the game for the first time. On their next possession, Crowder went to the line and hit one of two from the free throw line to give the Golden Eagles’ their first lead of the game at 44-43.
After DePaul tied it at 44 on the next possession, Crowder found sophomore Vander Blue on a back door cut for a lay-up to give Marquette another lead. That was followed by a fast break lay-up from Johnson-Odom, which put the Golden Eagles ahead 48-44 with 17:07 left in the game.
Marquette wouldn’t give up the lead for the rest of the game.
After being down 41-29, Marquette went on a 27-5 run stretching over the next 10:59, spanning halftime. Blue scored eight points in the first 6:29 of the second half, and finished the run with another lay-up off a backdoor cut, putting the Golden Eagles up 56-46, their first double-digit lead.
Just before the 12-minute media timeout, redshirt sophomore Jamil Wilson delivered his second thunderous dunk of the night, putting Marquette up 60-51.
Later in the half, Cadougan found a cutting Crowder on the fast break with a perfect bounce pass through traffic that would make any point guard proud with 8:32 left in the game to make the Golden Eagles’ lead 15, their biggest to that point.
Crowder put back a miss by Blue to make the lead 16, with 6:51 left in the game. That would be the Golden Eagles’ largest of the game.
The senior forward had only 4 points and 2 rebounds at halftime, and finished with another double-double, with 14 and 11. He said his transformation, and the team’s, was all about playing aggressively.
“Just playing aggressive,” Crowder said. “Not waiting on them to make a move, just us making moves and being aggressive throughout the whole game and trying to pick it up in the second half because we knew our backs were against the wall.”
DePaul would fight back though, cutting the lead to eight with 4:02 left in the game, but Marquette would pull away again, and go on to win the game, by 13, 89-76.
Williams had incredibly high praise for Wilson after the game, both with his skillset on the court, along with his personality off the court.
“Thought he was the hardest playing guy on the floor from start to finish,” Williams said. “He’s our most talented player. He is by far the perfect example of what I hope by children become as humans.”
Wilson gave a lot of credit to Cadougan (who finished with 10 points and 8 assists) after the game, noting without him, nothing they do is possible, calling him the best in the league at getting his teammates an open shot.
“Without Junior a lot of things we do wouldn’t be possible,” Wilson said. “A lot of the easy buckets we get wouldn’t be possible. The things Junior does to contribute, handling the ball, penetrating, getting people to help so you can get an open look, it’s huge.”
All of the Golden Eagles appeared quite tired after the game, just wanting to get home to their own beds. They’ll have plenty of time to rest before their next Big East game, which will be a physical showdown with the rival Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center.