No. 17 Marquette 67, Seton Hall 46
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams sent his team a stern message after his team was only tied at the half with struggling Seton Hall.
''The only time you have a chance to win on the road is to overwhelm teams with your intensity, your fight and your spirit,'' Williams said after the No. 17 Golden Eagles steamrolled past the Pirates, 67-46, with an impressive second half performance. ''It's incredibly hard to win on the road no matter who you're playing.''
Vander Blue scored 19 points and Devante Gardner added 18, including 14 in the second half, as Marquette used a sizeable rebounding advantage to get the victory.
The win enabled the Golden Eagles (19-6, 10-3 Big East) to hold onto first place in the conference with their fourth win in the last five outings. The Pirates (13-14, 2-12) dropped below the .500 mark for the first time this season - their worst league mark in 29 years.
Marquette went on a 17-0 run over a 5:38 span of the second half, right after Seton Hall grabbed a 33-32 lead. The Golden Eagles used their size advantage to take control, with Gardner scoring eight during that span. All totaled, Marquette outscored Seton Hall, 25-1, over an eight-minute portion of the half and outscored the Pirates, 40-19, after halftime.
''When you're on the road in late February, you need everyone to muster up the juice,'' Williams said. ''You need the players, the coaches, the trainers, the managers, everyone. We were really good defensively in the second half and we were much more consistent offensively in the second half.''
Blue is averaging nearly 16 points per game since scoring his career best 30 points in a win against South Florida Jan. 28.
''Since that game, Vander has been playing at a different clip,'' Williams said. ''Vander's definitely playing at a very good clip and the last two games have been his best because of his consistency. The others have allowed Vander to feel the freedom to make plays.''
Marquette outrebounded Seton Hall by a 43-24 margin, led by Jamil Wilson, who had nine rebounds to go along with his 10 points.
Fuquan Edwin had 14 points and Aaron Cosby 11 for Seton Hall.
Marquette and Seton Hall traded the lead nine times during a closely contested and tightly played first half.
Seton Hall's biggest lead came after Kyle Smyth drained a 3-pointer with 13:40 left, giving the Pirates a 10-7 lead.
After the game was tied at 17-17, Marquette went on a 10-3 run to take a 27-20 lead with 49 seconds left. Jamil Wilson scored the final three points.
But the Pirates then scored the final seven points of the half in a span of just 22 seconds to tie the game again at 27-27. Edwin had a rebound basket, Cosby hit a 3-pointer, then Aaron Geramipoor made two rare free throws on a one-and-one with 0.4 seconds remaining, sending the two teams into the locker room even.
Trent Lockett hit a 3-pointer to give Marquette a 30-27 lead coming out to start the second half, but the Pirates then outscored the Golden Eagles, 6-2, to take a 33-32 lead on a layup from Tom Mayaan.
But Blue then took over for the Golden Eagles, hitting a driving left-handed shot off glass and following it up with a long corner 3-pointer, giving Marquette a 39-33 lead with 16:20 left. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard was whistled for a technical foul as he called a time out, and Gardner hit one of two free throws, pushing the lead to 40-33.
Gardner then took over down low, scoring 10 of his team's 12 points, as the Golden Eagles took a 54-34 lead with 9:35 left on two free throws from Lockett.
''Our kids understood that Devante is an offensive presence on the floor,'' Williams said. ''Over the last four or five games, it's the best he's played for us.''
Senior point guard Junior Cadougan was scoreless, but he ran the offense to get guys like Blue and Gardner going.
''We're playing for something we never had here (a regular-season Big East title) and we have guys like Vander and Devante who know what it takes,'' Cadougan said. ''We need to fight no matter who we're playing. We sometimes tend to forget what we need, but no matter where you are, you need to come out with high energy and believe in what got you there. That's what we did in the second half.''
Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard, who closed his locker room to the media after the loss, was disappointed in his team's effort.
''We have to figure out a way to play the last five games, find a way to finish the season with some fight,'' Willard said. ''The injuries have demoralized this team and when that happens, then 25-1 runs happen. We didn't respond to it. We have a couple changes we need to make, bring in guys who have a little more fight.''