MILWAUKEE (AP)—Ousmane Barro is becoming a force down low for Marquette.
The junior forward had a career-high 21 points and tied a personal best with 13 rebounds to help No. 8 Marquette to an 83-67 victory over Northwestern State in the Blue & Gold Classic on Friday night.
“His confidence is growing, he loves to study (the game) and there’s rarely a time he’s not the first one in the gym,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “He sees himself as a producer, not just as a player.”
Barro shot 10-for-13 from the floor and was strong in the post as Marquette outscored Northwestern State in the paint 54 to 18.
“When Ousmane plays that way, his energy goes throughout the whole team,” Dominic James said. “Having that threat down low, that’s just going to open it up for us guards.”
The Golden Eagles also had 33 fast-break points to the Demons’ 17.
“We’ve been getting him (Barro) the ball in positions where he can do something with it,” Wes Matthews said. “He’s playing with a little chip on his shoulder.”
James scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half and Matthews finished with 14 points and eight rebounds for Marquette (8-0), which will play North Dakota State in the championship game of the four-team tournament Saturday.
James had six assists and Barro also blocked three shots and had one steal.
Marquette held a 56-28 advantage on the boards and limited the Demons to 10 on the offensive end.
Colby Bargeman scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds and Trey Gilder had 13 points for Northwestern State (4-3), which suffered its biggest loss since Illinois beat them 69-51 on Dec.30, 2004, a span of 63 games.
The Golden Eagles, which opened the game with an 11-0 run, started the second half with a decisive 14-0 run. Jerel McNeal had six of his 13 points during the surge, including a layup that gave Marquette a 50-32 lead with 16:46 to go.
“The difference was they attacked, attacked, attacked,” Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. “You can’t spot them 11-0 and 14-0 runs. They stunned us.”
The Demons pulled within eight three times in the second half, the last coming on a Bargeman basket that made it 64-56. James responded with a three-point play with 6 minutes left.
Northwestern State never challenged after that.
“To get back to eight was remarkable,” McConathy said.
Marquette scored 17 of the first 22 points, but Luke Rogers scored six straight points to ignite an 18-5 run for Northwestern State. Gilder connected on a 3-pointer to put the Demons ahead 23-22.
Gilder also banked in a shot with 4 seconds left in the first half, cutting Marquette’s lead to 36-32 at halftime.
Marquette is 8-0 for the third time in coach Tom Crean’s tenure. Their best start under Crean was 10-0 in 2001-02.
The Golden Eagles were upset 71-64 by Winthrop in last year’s championship game, snapping Marquette’s 13-0 run in Blue & Gold Classic play under Crean.