An inability to consistently play a full 40 minutes has dropped Marquette to the bottom of the Top 25. Playing their next three games at home may allow the Golden Eagles to put together a complete game.
After two uneven road losses to elite Big East teams, No. 25 Marquette tries to regroup Wednesday night when it meets St. John's.
Coach Buzz Williams' team was erratic last week in losses to then-No. 9 Georgetown and top-ranked Syracuse. The Golden Eagles (12-4, 1-2) blew a 17-point lead in the final 13:10 of their defeat to the Hoyas last Wednesday, and that hangover continued in the first half Saturday versus the Orange.
After absorbing a 19-0 run by Syracuse that helped create an 18-point halftime deficit, Marquette made a second-half charge to pull within two with 4:59 left before losing 73-66.
"That's the only way that you give yourself a chance to beat a team as talented and as well-coached as Syracuse - to play the way we did in the second half," Williams said. "The problem that we have is the Big East says you have to play 40-minute games."
The Golden Eagles have usually done that at the Bradley Center, going 7-1 while averaging 81.5 points and outscoring opponents by 19.6 per game. Following this home game against a St. John's team which has one of the Big East's worst overall records, Marquette hosts two struggling conference opponents - Pittsburgh on Saturday and No. 14 Louisville on Monday.
As the Golden Eagles look to this homestand to get back on track, leading scorer Darius Johnson-Odom (18.0 points per game) hopes to end his shooting woes.
While he did have 19 points Saturday, Johnson-Odom was 5 of 16 from the field and has shot 35.5 percent (27 for 76) over his last five games, well off his season mark of 44.0 percent.
Marquette made official Saturday that starting 6-foot-11 center Chris Otule will have season-ending surgery on his left knee. The junior averaged 5.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in eight games before suffering the injury Dec. 6 in a win over Washington.
Davante Gardner, a 6-8, 290-pound sophomore, has averaged 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in the eight games since Otule was hurt, increasing his season averages to 8.7 and 4.9, respectively. Jamil Wilson, a 6-7 sophomore, also has been pressed into spot duty at center to help compensate for Marquette's lack of size.
St. John's (8-7, 2-2) is hoping to further its momentum after winning 57-55 at Cincinnati on Saturday for its first road victory. The Red Storm squandered a 15-point lead over the last 9:56, but Moe Harkless' putback as time expired provided the winning margin.
"He's a special player and we all know that when you watch him play," assistant Mike Dunlap said of Harkless, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double.
Harkless is second on the team in scoring at 15.3 points per game and among the Big East leaders at 8.5 rebounds per contest. Fellow freshman D'Angelo Harrison is averaging a team-high 16.0 points.
The Red Storm feature four freshmen in their seven-man rotation, but that youth has struggled against ranked opponents. St. John's is 0-5 against Top 25 teams, losing by an average of 12.2 points.
Marquette leads the all-time series 13-6, but St. John's ended an eight-game losing streak with an 80-68 road victory last season. It also was the Golden Eagles' first loss in eight games against the Red Storm since joining the Big East in 2005.