Parker, Cincinnati upset No. 8 Marquette

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin took the courtside microphone and thanked the crowd for its raucous support on Senior Night and all season long.

”We’ll see you in New York,” Cronin said, referring to the Big East tournament. ”Then in the NCAA tournament.”

With a double-digit win Wednesday night, they’re a little closer to getting in the field of 68.

JaQuon Parker scored a career-high 28 points in a take-it-to-the-hoop attack that led Cincinnati to a 72-61 victory over No. 8 Marquette that embellished the Bearcats’ NCAA tournament chances.

The Bearcats (21-9, 11-6) have won six of their last eight, including home victories over then-No. 17 Louisville and Marquette (24-6, 13-4). This was among their best of the season, a solid showing from start to finish.

”You couldn’t have asked for more,” senior power forward Yancy Gates said. ”We all played great. Everyone did what they had to do to get a win.”

The Golden Eagles had won five straight, including a 95-78 drubbing of the Bearcats in Milwaukee on Feb. 11. The Bearcats were staggered by that one, by far their most lopsided loss of the season.

The rematch was a total reversal.

Cincinnati repeatedly drove through Marquette’s defense for layups, with Parker leading the way. Dion Dixon added 21 points for the Bearcats. Cincinnati’s front line dominated with nine blocks, including seven by Justin Jackson.

With Marquette clamping down on Cincinnati’s 3-point shooters, the Bearcats’ guards found plenty of room to drive to the basket.

”They denied the (outside), so it would be just me and my man,” said Parker, who scored the most points by a Cincinnati player this season. ”That was the game plan. It was going to be one-on-one the whole time, so we were just going to take it to the basket.”

Darius Johnson-Odom scored 18 points, and Jae Crowder added 17 points and 12 rebounds for Marquette, which never got the lead under double digits in the second half.

The Golden Eagles get a lot of points in transition, but forced only seven turnovers.

”We never got started on offense or defense,” Crowder said. ”It was tough to get into a rhythm. For a long time, we couldn’t get any defensive stops.”

Instead, the Golden Eagles were the ones trying to catch up. Cincinnati scored 19 points off fast breaks, repeatedly pushing the pass after a rebound or steal.

”That was the most points we’ve given up in transition over the last four years,” coach Buzz Williams said. ”I thought they were superb in transition.”

Cincinnati improved to 5-3 against ranked teams this season. It was Cincinnati’s most lopsided win over a top-10 opponent since it beat No. 4 Louisville 101-80 on Feb. 22, 2003.

Marquette sat three starters, including Johnson-Odom, for the first half of a 61-60 win at West Virginia, punishment for violating unspecified team rules. All were back against Cincinnati.

The Bearcats honored seniors Dixon and Gates before the final home game. Gates set a tone early, getting five rebounds before picking up his second foul on a charge at the 16:16 mark.

Even without Gates, Cincinnati dominated the boards — it had a 10-3 advantage early — while pulling out to a 19-11 lead. Dixon had a pull-up jumper, a layup and a finger-roll basket during a 10-0 run.

Marquette made its first three shots — all from behind the arc — but missed nine of its next 10, including two air balls. Cincinnati blocked seven shots in the first half, six by Jackson.

Parker took advantage of Marquette’s perimeter defense, driving past step-slow defenders for layups as Cincinnati pulled away in the closing minutes of the first half. His 3 from the left corner with one second left pushed the lead to 42-26 and left Parker with 16 points.

The offensive surge was notable. The Bearcats were coming off their worst scoring game of the season, a 46-45 loss at South Florida on Sunday.

During its winning streak, Marquette routinely pulled itself out of deep first-half deficits. The Golden Eagles never made a run after halftime, with Parker and the Bearcats refusing to let up.

Parker had a fast-break layup and 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 52-33 in the opening minutes of the second half. Marquette went to half-court pressure to try to force turnovers, but never rattled the Bearcats.