Marquette guard Jajuan Johnson dunks the ball against St. John's in the first half of a Big East tournament game in New York. (Julie Jacobson/Associated Press)
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press
ATHENS, Ga. — Coach Steve Wojciechowski challenged Jajaun Johnson at halftime to stop playing timidly and give Marquette a better effort.
"I got a little mad, and when I get mad I play better," Johnson said. "When he got on me, it just clicked."
Freshman Sam Hauser scored a career-high 19 points, Johnson added 16 points and 10 rebounds and Marquette had little trouble beating Georgia 89-79 on Sunday.
Markus Howard finished with 15 points as the Golden Eagles (6-2) won their fourth straight game.
Yante Maten had 24 points and J.J. Frazier 20 for Georgia (5-3).
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During a 3-minute, 30-second stretch early in the second half, Johnson hit a 3, had three steals, a tip-in, a dunk, hit two free throws and grabbed a rebound.
"When he plays with the kind of effort and energy that he did at the start of the second half, he can impact the game in a lot of ways," Wojciechowski said. "That was another sign of it to start the second half. He really was all over the place, which was good to see."
Stegeman Coliseum, which seats 10,523, was about two-thirds full, a decent-sized crowd for a building that’s rarely charged with atmosphere in December.
Down by 16 with 14:27 remaining, the Bulldogs made a run to get excited the crowd with seven minutes to go, cutting the lead to two on William Jackson’s 3 and two free throws.
But Howard hit a 3 at the 4:29 mark put Marquette up by 13 and Georgia never threatened again.
"Defense, defense," Johnson said. "They all came from steals. We knew they were going to make a run. We just had to stay together when it got tough.
Marquette hit its first six 3s and eight of its first nine as Duane Wilson made it 25-15 with 11 minutes left in the first half to give the Golden Eagles’ their first double-digit lead.
Georgia cut the lead to three before intermission, but coach Mark Fox called time out at the 16:43 mark of the second with the Golden Eagles back again leading by 10.
Howard’s 3 with 15:47 remaining made Marquette 11 of 15 beyond the arc and pushed the lead to 14.
"Our big lineup couldn’t cover them, so we played small most of the day in an effort to try to slow the 3-point shooting, which I don’t think we really ever did," Fox said. "We didn’t do the dirty work to win."
Marquette: Won despite a rare unproductive game from G Haanif Cheatham, the Golden Eagles’ third-leading scorer and named last season to the Big East Conference’s all-freshman team. Making his 41st straight start in 41 career games, Cheatham missed six of his first eight shots (1 for 7) and picked up his fourth foul with 16:06 remaining. He finished with two points in 25 minutes.
"He’s played really well for us," Wojciechowski said. "That happens over the course of the season. Other guys stepped up, which was great."
Georgia: Had its 24th consecutive game in double-digit scoring from Maten, but the Bulldogs are too reliant for him and Frazier on offense. Nobody else averages close to double digits. Fox has yet to find a way to replace the productivity of departed seniors Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines, who combined to average 24.1 points last season.
The Bulldogs are looking for other players to step up if they’re going to return to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season. Poor defense isn’t helping either.
"We have some serious areas to work on," Fox said. "Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann were terrific defenders. We haven’t replaced the defense that walked out of here with a degree. That’s disappointing to lose a game because you don’t defend like we need to."