Marquette moves to 4-0 in Big East with win over Seton Hall
MILWAUKEE — Marquette played its first game since cracking the AP rankings for the first time this season, and coach Buzz Williams joked his team finally had an easy game in the Big East Conference.
Reserve forward Davante Gardner scored 17 points to lead the 25th-ranked Golden Eagles to a 69-62 victory over injury-depleted Seton Hall, which had just eight available players Wednesday night.
The Golden Eagles (13-3, 4-0 Big East) struggled against Seton Hall, after opening league play with overtime victories against Connecticut and Pittsburgh, and a one-point win over Georgetown.
Still, the Golden Eagles are 4-0 in conference play for just the fourth time since the program become affiliated with one in 1989.
“I don’t think we’ll blow out anybody,” Williams said. “Whoever is hurt or not hurt. What their record is or what our record is. We could very easily, very easily be 0-4. That’s the truth. This was a blowout. We won by seven.
“I think it’s just going to be a grind. I think it’s going to be ugly, and I don’t think there’s a thing we do that’s pretty.”
Marquette got 12 points from Todd Mayo to win their season-high sixth straight game. Vander Blue had 11 points and four assists as the three Golden Eagles combined to go 17 of 18 from the free throw line to claim their 19th consecutive home victory.
“Fortunately we have been winning,” said Marquette’s Jamil Wilson, who had 10 points and five rebounds. “We still have yet to play a perfect game and I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. We are building on each and every game.”
Aaron Cosby had 15 points for Seton Hall (12-6, 1-4), which never led in the game and used just seven players. Haralds Karlis added 14 points and six rebounds for the Pirates, who dropped their season-high fourth straight game.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been stuck (with injuries) for the first five games of the Big East. We’ve only had seven guys,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “We’ve been battling injuries for the last five games, so we’re kind of used to it. The thing is, it’s always been a different group every time. So it was tough for the fact we had to put in three offenses just for this game. But I was proud of the guys though.”
Seton Hall, which had only three players on the bench due to injuries, lost second-leading scorer, Eugene Teague, because he fouled out with 4:03 left. Top scorer Fuquan Edwin picked up his fifth foul with 1:40 to play.
Walk-on Connor Laverty, who has played just 4 minutes all season, sat on the bench the entire game. The Pirates’ Brandon Mobley did not play because he dislocated his shoulder in a 67-55 loss to Providence on Sunday. Brian Oliver, Patrik Auda and Kevin Johnson also missed the game because they were hurt, and Freddie Wilson hasn’t been with the team since transferring after the eighth game.
“It’s tough,” Cosby said. “We’re kind of playing on the fly right now.”
Nevertheless, Seton Hall cut Marquette’s lead to 40-39 when Karlis made two free throws with 9:09 left to cap an 8-0 run.
“I thought DePaul we played a little better offensively and I felt Louisville we played better defensively,” Willard said. “I think on both sides, this is probably the best we’ve played, with such limited numbers.”
Marquette increased its lead to 53-48 and then pulled away with a 7-0 run late in the second half. Mayo and Gardner both made two free throws, and then they combined to put Seton Hall away on the next play.
Gardner passed the ball to Mayo at the left wing, and he calmly drilled a 3-pointer over the leaping Kyle Smyth — both ended up on the court — for the Golden Eagles’ biggest lead, 60-48, with 3:07 remaining.
“I thought how he played in the second half always calmed the run they were on,” Williams said. “I thought he made timely baskets.”
The first half was not exactly entertaining, as Marquette took a 26-16 lead.
It was the fewest points allowed in any half by the Golden Eagles and the fewest scored by Seton Hall this season, as the Pirates shot just 23.5 percent (4 of 17).
Marquette opened the game by taking a 9-2 lead with 13:51 remaining. At that point, Seton Hall had more turnovers (6) than shots (5).
A 3-pointer by Karlis cut Marquette’s lead to 13-12 with 8 minutes to play, but that would be the last field goal of the half for the Pirates.
Marquette scored 13 of the final 17 points of the half. A 3-pointer by Blue with 2 seconds left gave his team the 10-point lead.