Marquette-Cincinnati Preview

Marquette’s high-octane offense had little trouble cruising past
defensive-minded Cincinnati earlier this month in Milwaukee.

Coach Buzz Williams’ aggressive defense was a big reason
why.

Coming off an emotional victory, the eighth-ranked Golden Eagles
look to clinch the Big East’s second seed and sweep the season
series from the Bearcats on Wednesday night in Cincinnati.

Marquette (24-5, 13-3) has already secured its first-ever double
bye for the Big East tournament, and it needs a win either
Wednesday or Saturday against 11th-ranked Georgetown to ensure
itself the No. 2 spot.

Losses in both, however, could drop the Golden Eagles to fourth,
so they’d prefer to solidify their position by beating Cincinnati
for the fifth time in six meetings. The Bearcats (20-9, 10-6) are
tied with No. 19 Louisville for sixth place.

The Golden Eagles had no problem with Cincinnati at the Bradley
Center on Feb. 11. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder finished
with 23 points apiece, while Jamil Wilson added 15 and Vander Blue
scored 14 in a 95-78 victory. Marquette, which leads the Big East
with 76.4 points per game, shot 56.7 percent – its best mark in its
last 47 games in league play.

Marquette overwhelmed Cincinnati, which is fourth in the
conference in scoring defense (60.8 ppg), although much of the
offense was created by its defense. The Golden Eagles forced 14
turnovers leading to 25 points, and also had a 31-10 edge in
fast-break points.

“We take a lot of pride in trying to play defense,” Bearcats
coach Mick Cronin said after that game. “We didn’t do a very good
job of it today.”

Marquette’s defense frustrated Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati’s
leading scorer at 14.8 points, limiting him to a season-low
seven.

The Golden Eagles have won all three games they’ve played since
to improve to 12-1 since Jan. 11, and their latest victory might be
one of their most encouraging.

At West Virginia on Friday, Williams benched Johnson-Odom, Blue
and Junior Cadougan for the first half and Todd Mayo for the
second, declining to give the reason for the penalties.
Johnson-Odom is second in the Big East with 18.4 points per game
and Cadougan leads Marquette in assists, averaging 5.5.

Unsurprisingly, the Golden Eagles struggled and were down 32-21
at the half, and they fell behind by as many as 15 in the second
half before rallying for a 61-60 victory.

Crowder played 40 minutes and led the way with 26 points, while
Blue scored 10 and Johnson-Odom added nine.

“We played with unbelievable heart,” said Crowder, who is
averaging 26.3 points in his last four games – 8.9 better than his
average.

Williams was so elated with his team’s performance, he danced at
center court after the game while John Denver’s “Country Roads”
played on the loudspeakers, which didn’t sit well with Mountaineers
fans.

“I apologize,” Williams said. “It was very unprofessional.
That’s a bad representation of our program.”

While Marquette struggled to get in rhythm without three of its
starters against West Virginia, Cincinnati didn’t have an excuse
for how poorly its offense played its last time out.

The Bearcats shot 34.0 percent in Sunday’s 46-45 loss to South
Florida, snapping a three-game winning streak. Kilpatrick had 13
points, but Cincinnati’s other starters totaled 22 – not even half
their combined average.

Despite the meager offense, Cincinnati was still in position to
win until South Florida freshman Anthony Collins hit two free
throws with 3.2 seconds remaining.