MILWAUKEE (AP) — After watching his team throw away an early lead in a flurry of turnovers and transition baskets, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin didn’t hold much back.
Cronin said his players should have known that No. 18 Marquette was going to turn up the heat — and should have been ready for it. Instead, the Bearcats gave up the lead in the first half and wound up losing 95-78 on Saturday.
“I don’t know what they’ve been watching all season,” Cronin said. “I don’t know what they do at night. I don’t know what they’ve been doing for the last 48 hours as we’ve been preparing for them. But like I said, we weren’t ready to play. We weren’t ready for what was going to happen.”
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JaQuon Parker and Dion Dixon scored 15 points each for the Bearcats (17-8, 7-5), who had won two straight coming into Saturday’s game.
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati’s leading scorer, was held to a season-low seven points and spent the late stages of the game on the bench.
It was the most points the defense-minded Bearcats have given up all season. Cincinnati allowed 78 points in a win over Villanova on Jan. 14.
“It was bad,” Dixon said. “It was real bad. We gave up too many layups. I could see if they made tough shots all night, that’s a different thing. But we gave up stuff that we could’ve stopped, layups in transition.”
Cincinnati beat Marquette on the road last season, and Cronin figured that was all the extra motivation Marquette needed.
“You think they’re going to let us win two in a row at Marquette? It’s going to be World War III,” Cronin said. “And we weren’t ready. We weren’t ready for their intensity level.”
Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder scored 23 points each. Jamil Wilson added 15 points for the Golden Eagles (21-5, 10-3 Big East), who have won nine of their last 10 games.
Marquette forced Cincinnati into 14 turnovers.
“They turned up the heat, we didn’t take care of the basketball,” Cronin said. “Real simple. They do that to everybody, though.”
Trailing by 12 at the half, Cincinnati cut the lead to nine when Parker scored inside with 17:23 left.
But Crowder scored inside for the Golden Eagles, Parker was called for an offensive foul and Johnson-Odom hit a 3-pointer to give Marquette a 57-43 lead — forcing Cincinnati to call timeout with 16:30 left and the game beginning to slip away.
The Bearcats responded with a quick 8-2 run, cutting the lead to eight.
But Johnson-Odom was fouled on a drive to the basket, put up a shot and turned around to watch the ball linger on the rim, pumping his fist as it dropped in. Johnson-Odom missed the free throw, but Wilson was fouled on the rebound and hit one of two free throws for a 62-51 lead.
Marquette remained in control, and Wilson’s powerful dunk gave the Golden Eagles a 70-55 lead with 9:56 left. Cronin called a timeout, whipping his sport coat to the floor in frustration.
The Bearcats came into Saturday’s game having held 19 of their 24 opponents under 70 points — and 14 opponents to 60 or fewer.
Dixon helped get Cincinnati off to a hot start, scoring on three straight possessions to give the Bearcats a 16-4 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Marquette rallied to cut the lead to 24-17 — then took control with a 10-0 run that included turnovers on four of five possessions by the Bearcats.
The Golden Eagles then ended the first half on a 7-0 run, including a layup by Johnson-Odom at the final horn for a 47-35 lead at the break.
Marquette outscored Cincinnati 16-5 on points off turnovers and 17-6 on fast-break points in the first half.
Marquette once again played without power forward Davante Gardner, who has missed four straight games since spraining his left knee at Villanova on Jan. 28. The Golden Eagles already were at a size disadvantage without center Chris Otule, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.