Marquette's upset of Georgetown in their first meeting of the season has helped the Golden Eagles to a first-place tie in the tightly packed Big East. The next showdown should prove just as crucial in determining who ends up with the conference title.
The No. 18 Golden Eagles look for their third straight win over the 15th-ranked Hoyas as they try to move back into sole possession of first Monday night, while host Georgetown may need a victory to remain in the thick of the race.
Marquette (17-5, 8-2) held off the then-No. 15 Hoyas 49-48 on Jan. 5, snapping Georgetown's seven-game winning streak. The Golden Eagles share the top spot in the conference with No. 6 Syracuse, which defeated St. John's on Sunday, and are one game up on the Hoyas.
Marquette warmed up for Monday by beating DePaul 89-78 on Saturday, its last easier contest before a brutal closing eight-game stretch that includes meetings with Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and St. John's in addition to Georgetown - all of which are in the hunt to win the league.
"With each passing game, minus (a 70-51 loss to Louisville last Sunday), we've continued to improve,'' said coach Buzz Williams, whose team has won two in a row and will be concluding a stretch of four games in nine days. ''We are trending in the right direction, but I know there is an avalanche coming at us in the next 25 days."
Williams' players hardly seem intimidated by the rough final stretch, however.
''From top to bottom, we have everything we need,'' guard Vander Blue said after scoring 18 points against the Blue Demons. ''This year, the NCAA is going to be wide open. You're seeing all these number one teams lose. Teams don't want to play us in March.''
Georgetown certainly wants to play Marquette again after the loss in January. Once again, the Hoyas (17-4, 7-3) bring a winning streak into the meeting, having taken five in a row after a 69-63 victory over Rutgers on Saturday.
Markel Starks led the Hoyas with 20 points and Otto Porter had 15 of his 19 in the second half, including 10 straight over the final 5:42, and finished with 14 rebounds.
"He's one of the best players in the country and the best players in the country come through when it's winning time," coach John Thompson III said of his sophomore forward. "He's consistently come through when it's winning time.''
Perhaps that's why the Hoyas left Milwaukee in January without a victory. Porter, averaging 15.0 points on the season and 18.3 in his last eight games, managed 13 and went 5 for 13 from the field in that matchup.
If this contest goes at all like the first meeting, however, those shooting numbers may hardly be atypical. Neither team made 40 percent from the field in that game, with Marquette missing 11 of its first 13 shots and Georgetown missing 10 of its first 12.
A loss by Georgetown on Monday could prove fatal to its conference title hopes, as it would be two games behind Marquette and Syracuse and in an even tighter battle with the four other teams vying for the top spot.
Though they've dropped the last two in the series, the Hoyas have taken two straight matchups with the Golden Eagles at home.
Starks has reached double figures in points in a career-high four consecutive games, and he scored 14 of his game-high 18 in the second half to go along with seven assists in the first contest against Marquette.
Blue, averaging 19.5 points and 55.4 percent shooting over his past four games, has scored 6.8 and shot 36.8 percent in four career matchups with the Hoyas.