No. 10 Marquette can move one step closer to its first Big East title in a decade when the surprising Golden Eagles host DePaul on Saturday in Milwaukee.
Marquette (22-6, 14-3 Big East) overcame an eight-point halftime deficit to rally for a 73-71 win at No. 19 Creighton on Tuesday. DePaul (9-19, 3-14) has lost nine straight, including 59-58 against Butler on Wednesday.
Marquette, picked ninth in the conference preseason poll, has a two-game lead over Creighton, Xavier, Providence, each 12-5. The Golden Eagles last won a conference title in 2012-13, sharing it with Louisville and Georgetown.
The Golden Eagles, who have three regular-season games left, have won eight of their last nine and are 14-1 at home.
Against Creighton, Tyler Kolek scored on consecutive possessions to snap ties at 67 and 69-all, helping complete a season sweep of the Bluejays. Kolek finished with 18 points, his seventh straight game in double figures.
“Our guys have really grown a lot at being able to win a game like tonight,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “We don’t win this game in November and December, because competitive maturity-wise, we weren’t quite there yet. We’ve taken a major step. In terms of where we are in the standings and all that, our motto is there’s no finish line.
“We want to get better over the course of the rest of the week. We want to be playing our best basketball as we move toward the postseason.”
Marquette averages 80.5 points per game while allowing 70.6. The Golden Eagles are 18-5 when scoring 70 points or more, but 3-5 in games decided by five points or fewer.
Kam Jones averages 15.0 points per game and has a team-best 75 3-pointers. Olivier-Maxence Prosper adds 12.6 points and Oso Ighodaro averages 11.9 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds. Kolek adds 11.9 points and 7.6 assists, tied for second-best in the country.
Against Butler, the Blue Demons led by 12 early in the second half. DePaul had a chance to win, but Javan Johnson had his shot blocked just prior to time expiring.
“I thought we played solid for the final 10 to 12 minutes of the first half,” DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield said afterward. “I thought we came out strong to start the second half in giving ourselves a 12-point lead. …
“Then I thought we got very loose. I thought we took some very questionable shots. I thought we had some very careless turnovers that allowed them to get back in the game.”
DePaul averages 70.9 points per game and allows 76.3. Umoja Gibson averages a team-high 16.5 points, with Johnson at 14.5 and Da’Sean Nelson at 10.8. Eral Penn averages 7.2 boards, although the Blue Demons are outrebounded by 6.4 per game.
Marquette won the first meeting 89-69 at DePaul in late January, pulling away from a one-point halftime edge with 56 points after the break. The Golden Eagles and Blue Demons have split the last six meetings.
–Field Level Media