MILWAUKEE (AP) — Marquette coach Buzz Williams was pleased his team played well for more than one half Saturday.
One game after the 25th-ranked Golden Eagles had to rally in the second half to come back and beat St. John’s, they had a late surge in the first half and then turned up the defensive pressure in the second to come back and beat Pittsburgh 62-57, handing the Panthers’ their sixth straight loss.
Marquette (14-4, 3-2 Big East) won for the second straight time in conference play after losing consecutive games to No. 11 Georgetown and No. 1 Syracuse.
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“I thought we played more minutes of us than we have been,” he said. “But in the second half, we were really good in a lot of ways and that helped turn the game around.”
The best way was with defense.
Using a three-quarter court press, Marquette went on a 13-0 run midway through the second half to turn a five-point deficit into a 49-41 lead with 5:04 remaining. Marquette’s run featured consecutive steals and driving lay ups by Todd Mayo that got the crowd into the game and rattled Pittsburgh (11-7, 0-5).
Williams said Mayo was the difference in the game.
“His defensive pressure was superb,” Williams said. “I thought we were able to hang in there in a grind-it-out game. We’re very thankful for this win.”
Marquette’s Jamil Wilson said he wasn’t sure why the Golden Eagles continue to start games slow, but he had an interesting suggestion.
“Maybe everyone needs to wake up and splash some water on their face before the game,” said Wilson, who had nine points and seven rebounds. “We need to get loose and into a rhythm and stop starting games so slow.”
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 18 points and Jae Crowder added 15 for Marquette.
Ashton Gibbs had a career-high 29 points and Nasir Robinson added 10 for Pittsburgh, which remained the only winless team in the Big East.
Panthers coach Jamie Dixon was not pleased his team still did not have a conference win, but was happy with Pittsburgh’s improved performance.
In its last game, a 62-39 loss to Rutgers on Wednesday, Pittsburgh hit only four field goals in the first half and ended up making 12 of 57 for the game. It was their lowest point total in 38 years and lowest at home in 61 years.
“I liked how we played,” Dixon said. “The second half, we had some challenges there given the foul situation and I think that really caught up to us. We did some really good things. I’m proud of how hard we played but we didn’t get it done.”
Pittsburgh hit just 20 of 46 shots in the game, including only 6 of 20 from 3-point range.
Gibbs hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 54.1 seconds remaining to trim Marquette’s lead to 60-57.
With the shot clock running down, Crowder missed a 3-pointer from the corner, but Davante Gardner grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 18.1 seconds left. He hit both free throws to give Marquette a 62-57 lead.
Marquette trailed until turning up the defensive pressure midway through the second half.
Gibbs hit three free throws for Pittsburgh, but Crowder countered with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Marquette a 52-44 lead with 6:07 remaining.
Pittsburgh narrowed the lead to 54-51 when Gibbs hit a jumper with 3:25 remaining. Johnson-Odom then hit consecutive 3-pointers to give Marquette a 60-51 lead with 1:50 remaining.
Pittsburgh took a 21-13 lead when Lamar Patterson scored on a layup with 7:18 remaining. But Marquette fought back with a 7-1 run to cut the lead to 22-20 with 3:52 remaining on a free throw by Mayo.
The Panthers closed the half strong to take a 29-24 lead.
Despite the lead, Pittsburgh continued to struggle from the field as the Panthers hit only 10 of 25 shots, including making only 4 of 12 3-pointers.
The loss broke the Panthers’ four-game winning streak against Marquette. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 8-7.