Marquette back into tie for first in Big East after beating Pitt
MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Buzz Williams wanted to celebrate the 18th-ranked Golden Eagles’ latest win that moved them back into a first-place tie in the Big East. Then, remembering there was still nearly a month until NCAA Selection Sunday, he decided against it.
Vander Blue scored 19 points to lead Marquette past No. 16 Pittsburgh 79-69 on Saturday for its 23rd straight home win — the fourth-longest active streak in the country.
“I want to be really excited and I want to dance in the locker room,” Williams said. “I can’t. Because then I won’t work tomorrow. And if we don’t work tomorrow and don’t figure out a way to find a way to beat Seton Hall (on Tuesday), then we’ve lost the impact of what this positive work was.
“I guess from a program selfishness standpoint, can we be tough enough that over the next 29 days, can we exhaust every opportunity to improve? Exhaust every opportunity to see where we will be at the end? And along the way, never become satisfied with where we’re at.”
Blue, Marquette’s leading scorer, was 7 of 8 from the field and 3 for 4 from the free throw line to go with six rebounds for the Golden Eagles (18-6, 9-3). On Monday, Blue made just three shots and scored seven points in a 63-55 loss at No. 15 Georgetown, which is also 9-3 in league play.
“I had sort of a weird feeling about how I played at Georgetown,” Blue said. “I felt like we could’ve got that one there. That was a big one. … I just wanted to make sure I was mentally and physically there right out of the gates to give us the boost and energy that we needed to win. I was just thinking, take what was given to me, don’t force anything and just play with unbelievable energy.”
Marquette shot 57 percent (26 for 46) and also won the teams’ previous meeting this season, 74-67 in overtime at Pittsburgh on Jan. 12.
“I think if I were to say our best performance on the road in Big East play would be at Pitt, and I thought our best performance at home in a Big East game thus far would be Pitt,” Williams said. “I think they’re one of the top two or three teams in our league.”
Lamar Patterson scored 19 points to lead Pittsburgh (20-6, 8-5), which entered the game fifth in the nation in scoring defense (54.4 ppg). Tray Woodall added 10 points and eight assists for the Panthers, who lost for just the second time in their last nine games.
“There were three things we wanted to do,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “Hold them under 40 percent defensively; we didn’t come close to that. We wanted to keep them off the free-throw line; we certainly didn’t come close to that. Then obviously the rebounding, we got out-rebounded, so simply put, the 10-point loss is really pretty easy to see.”
Davante Gardner finished with 14 points for Marquette and scored 10 of his team’s 11 during a key stretch late in the game.
Gardner started his scoring spree when he tipped in his own miss to give the Golden Eagles a 63-50 lead with 6:35 to play.
Woodall missed a 3-pointer but Pittsburgh got the offensive rebound. The Panthers also got the rebound on a miss by Talib Zanna, and then Dixon was called for his first technical of the season with 6:05 to play.
“That was my first one in I don’t know how long,” Dixon said. “I congratulated them on that. There was no bad language. I’ll be sure to pass that onto my mom.”
Gardner made both free throws, and after a 3-pointer by Patterson, he sank two more from the line to give Marquette a 67-53 lead with 5:45 remaining.
Fifteen seconds later, Patterson turned the ball over and then received a flagrant foul call. Derrick Wilson made one free throw, Gardner was fouled, and made two more free throws for a 70-53 lead with 5:13 left.
After a free throw by Patterson, Gardner capped his offensive outburst with a layup off a pass from Jamil Wilson for Marquette’s biggest lead, 72-54, with 4:14 to go.
Pittsburgh scored eight of the next 10 points and got within 74-62 on a layup by Woodall. But the Panthers missed their next three shots and fell behind, 76-62, on a dunk by Jamil Wilson with 2:00 to go.
In the first half, a jumper by Trent Lockett gave Marquette a 28-18 lead with 7:19 to go.
Pittsburgh responded by scoring the next seven points to trim the deficit to 28-25 after a layup by James Robinson with 5:37 left.
But that’s as close as the Panthers would get, as Marquette scored 11 of the final 13 points of the half for a 42-29 lead at the break.
“I thought we got the ball around the basket and didn’t finish well,” Dixon said. “We normally finish those, but for whatever reason, we didn’t. I don’t know what that reason was.”