Marquette used one of its better second halves of basketball of the season to fuel a comeback for an 89-76 win over DePaul Monday night.
The Golden Eagles (20-5, 9-3 Big East) outscored the Blue Demons 49-33 in the second half, and shot 53.1 percent from the field while turning the ball over just three times.
“I think considering what our roster is as of today, considering it was a back-to-back road game within 48 hours, considering that it was coming off of a loss, considering the importance of this game to a lot of people with the tradition (of playing DePaul),” coach Buzz Williams said. “It was the most important half we had played, and that’s what I told our kids at halftime.”
DePaul (11-12, 2-9 Big East) opened the game with a thunderous dunk from freshman guard Charles McKinney, and led 41-29 with 4:30 left in the first half, but Marquette closed to 43-40 at halftime.
“We played some pretty good basketball in the first 16, 17 minutes of play in the first half,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “They played really well at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half and we didn’t. They got a little bit of a working margin right there and we’re battling back for the rest of the night.”
Johnson-Odom sparked an 11-2 run to end the half, scoring nine of the 11 Marquette points.
Blue Demons’ sophomore guard Cleveland Melvin scored 17 point in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting, but was held to just five points in the second half.
Johnson-Odom led Marquette with 15 points in the first half, while sophomore forward Jamil Wilson had nine.
While Johnson-Odom kept the Golden Eagles in the game in the first half, four other Marquette players finished the game in double digits. DePaul had four players score 10 or more points, led by Melvin’s 22.
Sophomore guard Brandon Young, who came into the game as the Blue Demons’ second leading scorer (15.5 points per game), was held to just two points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Junior guard Junior Cadougan filled up the stat sheet, finishing with 10 points, eight assists and four rebounds in 32 minutes.
“Junior controls the whole game,” Wilson said. “Without Junior, a lot of the things we do wouldn’t be possible. The things Junior does to contribute, handling the ball, penetrating, getting people to help so you can get an open look. It’s huge.”
Wilson’s 18 points were a new career high, as were his 10 rebounds.
“I thought he was the hardest playing guy on the floor from start to finish,” Williams said. “He’s our most talented player. His talent just doesn’t always show.”
Senior forward Jae Crowder recorded his seventh career double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Marquette was outrebounded in the first half 22-12, including 10-2 on the offensive glass and assisted on just seven of 15 made baskets (46.7 percent).
The Golden Eagles scored 50 points in the paint, despite the continued absence of sophomore forward Davante Gardner, who missed his third straight game with a knee sprain.
“It was just perseverance,” Wilson said. “I know that a lot of people would consider us small, but when you attack the glass or get layups or shoot a jumper and get an offensive rebound. We just try to get layups and run outs and beat the ‘bigs’ down the floor.”
In the end, Marquette finished with 17 assists on 32 made baskets (53.1 percent), led by Cadougan’s eight.
The Golden Eagles ended up outrebounding DePaul 35-32 for the game, thanks to a 23-10 advantage in the second half.