MILWAUKEE -- Marquette was able to pull away late from a pesky DePaul team Saturday afternoon, moving into first place in the Big East with an 89-78 win at BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Vander Blue led the Golden Eagles (17-5, 8-2 Big East) with 18 points while Junior Cadougan added 17. Brandon Young had 19 for the Blue Demons (10-13, 1-9 Big East), while reserve Worrel Clahar tied a career high with 16.
Blue hit 5 of 9 field goals and made all eight of his free throws. The junior guard also added three rebounds and two assists and didn't turn the ball over in 36 minutes.
"He's just really growing up. And a conversation even a year ago is completely different," coach Buzz Williams said of his leading scorer. "Our guys have been accountable nearly every day of their work, and Vander's been a great leader in that regard."
It wasn't easy, as the Blue Demons' solid outside shooting helped them stay in the contest late. Three-pointers on successive possessions, including two from Clahar, pulled the Blue Demons as close as four, 75-71, inside six minutes. The third 3-pointer, from Donnavan Kirk, gave him a career-high 16 points. DePaul hit five 3-pointers after halftime.
Clahar and Davante Gardner exchanged baskets, with Gardner's three-point play extending the Golden Eagles' lead to 80-73 inside four minutes. The Blue Demons again were bit by defensive lapses despite another impressive offensive showing, and Marquette made free throws down the stretch to ice Big East win No. 8.
Blue hit all six of his free throw attempts in the second half, when the Golden Eagles made 16 of 17.
"I know my teammates have a lot of faith in me, and it definitely helps out when your teammates are expecting big things from you every night," Blue said. "And for us to get to where we need to get to, I need to be on my A-game every day."
A turning point in the action occurred when DePaul forward Cleveland Melvin picked up his fourth foul with 13:09 left, sending him to the bench. The Blue Demon offense struggled after, turning the ball over on three straight possessions.
But Marquette could not capitalize, and back-to-back fast-break layups from Charles McKinney and Montray Clemons pulled DePaul back within five, 64-59. Marquette sophomore Todd Mayo answered with four straight to push the lead back to nine.
Melvin finished with nine points, his lowest total in four games.
"I told the guys after the game I was proud of the way they fought, but I wasn't proud of the end result," coach Oliver Purnell said. "And in order to be proud of both of them, we've all got to do a little bit more."
The teams traded baskets to open the second half, and two free throws by Brandon Young pulled the Blue Demons within three, 47-44. As the Blue Demons began to heat up from beyond the arc -- Kirk, Edwin McGhee and Young made jumpers on consecutive possessions -- Cadougan took over for Marquette.
The senior point guard at one point scored 12 of 19 Marquette points to maintain pace with the up-tempo Blue Demons. That helped Marquette open their largest lead of the afternoon, 61-52.
"Sometimes I could be more aggressive to help my teammates more," Cadougan said. "But if I see the opening, I'm going to take it. I'm not going to hold back."
The Golden Eagles used a 14-8 run to close the first half and take a 43-38 lead. Cadougan had 10 points in the half, and Young scored eight for the Blue Demons.
Clahar's 3-pointer at the 5:26 mark was DePaul's fourth of the half and pulled the Blue Demons to within 29-28. Clahar added a layup on the next possession, giving them a one-point advantage.
Marquette used a 12-2 run midway through the half to take an 18-12 lead, dominating the Blue Demons in the paint and on the glass.
The Golden Eagles, who rank last in the Big East in 3-point shooting, got 14 of their first 18 points inside the paint.
Gardner, who totaled 14 points his previous three games, scored 13 on Saturday, including seven in a row in just over a minute to give the Golden Eagles a 26-23 lead.
Marquette scored 20 of its 34 points in the paint and held a 14-9 advantage on the glass.
NOTES: With Melvin's 3-pointer at the 19:03 mark, DePaul has connected from beyond the arc in 602 straight games. ... Buzz Williams wore a 1970s style suit in honor of the late Al McGuire; Saturday was Al McGuire Day. ... Melvin was assessed a technical foul in the first half after blocking Cadougan's layup. ... Young collected six assists, giving him more than 100 for the third straight season. ... Blue failed to make a 3-pointer, ending his run of 11 straight games with a make from beyond the arc.