ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP)—Marquette made a late run in the first half and then listened to coach Buzz Williams tell the team why it was so important.
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 23 points and Jamil Wilson added 18 points and nine rebounds to lead the 18th-ranked Golden Eagles to an 89-76 victory over DePaul on Monday night.
Trailing 41-29, Johnson-Odom scored nine points during an 11-2 run by the Golden Eagles (20-5, 9-3 Big East) to close the first half. He opened the second half by hitting a 3 that tied the game at 43, and Jae Crowder gave the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game with a free throw. Vander Blue hit a jumper to cap off a 16-3 run to open the second half and give Marquette a 56-46 lead.
“I think considering what our roster is as of today, considering it was back-to-back road games within 48 hours, considering it was coming off of a loss, considering the importance to this game to a lot of people because of the tradition it was the most important half that we played and that’s what I told our kids at halftime,” Williams.
Marquette rebounded from a blowout loss to Notre Dame on Saturday that ended a seven-game winning streak.
“I think that’s how we should be playing. We should at least get five guys in double figures. When we’re able to play like that it’s hard for a lot teams to guard us because you don’t know who is going to score because we have so many threats on the floor,” Johnson-Odom said.
Cleveland Melvin scored 22 points and Jamee Crockett added 17 for DePaul (11-12, 2-9), which has lost 36 consecutive games against ranked opponents since beating No. 17 Villanova 84-76 on Jan. 3, 2008.
Despite playing on the road, Marquette was backed by a strong contingent of Golden Eagles fans who were not heard from much until late in the first half.
Johnson-Odom and Crowder, were limited to 12 and four points by Notre Dame. But Johnson-Odom was aggressive from the start and Crowder finished with 14 points and Blue had 12.
Davante Gardner, who normally starts for the Golden Eagles, was sidelined for the third straight game with a knee injury, but the 6-foot-7 Wilson more than filled in.
“I thought he was the hardest-playing guy on the floor from start to finish. He is our most talented player, his talent does not always show and he is by far the perfect example of what my children become as human beings,” Williams said.
Marquette has won six of the last seven in the series, but lost 51-50 in its last trip to Allstate Arena in 2010. Mike Stovall hit a jumper off a loose ball with 0.7 seconds remaining to help DePaul end a 24-game Big East regular-season losing streak.
The Blue Demons are 3-38 in the Big East since.
“It was real frustrating. First half, we had the lead, in the second half we have to keep the lead going, but we can’t just lose our focus and that’s what we did. We just let them come back in the game,” Melvin said. “We were just making bad mistakes in the second half and that’s how they won the game.”
DePaul played long spans with starting guard Brandon Young on the bench. DePaul coach Oliver Purnell was visibly upset with Young at times.
DePaul lost forward Moses Morgan midway through the first half with a concussion. Morgan, trying to guard Johnson-Odom, flipped over Johnson-Odom’s back and landed on his head. Morgan was down for several minutes and was observed by team trainers and paramedics for several minutes before walking to the bench and then heading to the locker room. He returned to the bench later in the first half. Morgan missed Saturday’s loss to Cincinnati after he fainted in practice on Thursday.
Leading 26-25, DePaul scored 11 straight points. Melvin scored seven points in the span, including a 3-pointer that put DePaul up 37-25.