MILWAUKEE (AP)—Steve Novak had already showed the Big East his scoring ability. Now he’s teaching his young teammates how to win close games.
Novak scored 19 points and set Marquette’s season record for 3-pointers, leading the Golden Eagles to a 57-51 victory over No. 17 Georgetown on Thursday night.
“We said if we’re going to win like we want to, we’re going to have to close out games like we did,” Novak said. “We were reminding each other about that.”
Dominic James scored 16 points and Jerel McNeal added 10 for Marquette (17-8, 7-5 Big East), while the 6-foot-11 Novak put on another shooting show at home—going 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
“He makes more contested shots than anyone I’ve seen in a long time,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “It’s a gift that he’s worked on, clearly.”
The Golden Eagles beat a ranked conference opponent for the second time after a 94-79 victory over then-No. 2 Connecticut in their inaugural Big East game on Jan. 3. Marquette led No. 4 Villanova for most of the game earlier this month before faltering down the stretch and had a similar collapse in a loss at No. 11 West Virginia.
“Our players are building mental toughness. It’s really hard with a young team,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “It’s very hard to close teams out in a close game. The more that you get experience at it and the more you learn from the experience is when you don’t do it is where it can really help you.”
Roy Hibbert, who had 17 points, made a layup with 6:03 to go to cap a 7-0 run that brought Georgetown (17-6, 8-4) within 44-42. Ashanti Cook’s 3-pointer gave the Hoyas their first lead in the second half, 49-48.
“They went up by one point, but we still felt very confident we were going to win the ball game,” James said.
James, a freshman, found Joe Chapman for a 3-pointer to give Marquette a 51-49 lead with 2:30 remaining and Marquette shut down the Hoyas the rest of the way.
“Joe’s been stepping up all year, taking big shots and making big shots,” said Novak, a senior as is Chapman. “There is no question everybody on the team believes in him.”
Neither team scored again until James hit a runner with 48 seconds left that made it 53-49.
Darrel Owens of the Hoyas fired an off-balance 3-pointer that missed badly and Marquette sealed the game with 20 seconds left when Novak, a career 93 percent free throw shooter, made two.
“We have to make it a defensive game every time we turn around, that’s the Big East,” Crean said. “You’ve got to take advantage of your possessions.”
Novak, who already owns the career mark for 3s at Marquette, broke Travis Diener’s season record with his 91st of the year and fourth of the game to give the Golden Eagles a seven-point lead early in the second half.
Brandon Bowman and Jeff Green, leading the Hoyas in scoring by averaging 12 points each, combined for nine points on 4-of-14 shooting and 11 turnovers— eight by Green.
“This is probably the worst game I’ve ever seen Jeff Green play,” Thompson said. “He was just in a funk offensively and it happened against a very good team.”
It left the 7-2 Hibbert to shoulder the load, but Marquette’s defense forced him away from the basket and he was only able to set picks for his teammates until late in the game.
Georgetown went more than 6 minutes without a field goal in the second half while missing eight consecutive shots. That was a far cry from the first half, when Georgetown had no problem establishing its inside game early with Hibbert and hit its first seven field goals.
But the Hoyas began settling for jumpers, and quickly lost their composure— finishing 3-of-17 from the field after the hot start, including 1-of-9 from 3-point range.
Marquette took advantage by going on a 14-1 run capped by a dunk by James to take a 29-22 lead just before halftime.