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.