It wasn’t easy, and it was almost never pretty, but Marquette battled its way to a 69-62 win over lowly Seton Hall Wednesday night to improve to 4-0 in Big East play.
The Pirates had only eight healthy players but managed to hang around with a Golden Eagle team that was coming off a thrilling 74-66 overtime win over Pittsburgh Saturday.
Williams was his typical blunt and honest self when describing the sluggish victory.
“I don’t think we’re great and I’m honestly not sure what we’re good at at times,” coach Buzz Williams said. “But if we can be good at winning, maybe that would be enough.”
Marquette’s lead was as little as three after a pair of 3-pointers by Aaron Cosby and two free throws from Haralds Karlis made it 40-39 with 9:09 left. A huge three-point play from Davante Gardner the next trip down the floor stopped a 9-0 run.
And just when it looked like it was going to be another offensive struggle for the Golden Eagles, three-point buckets by Juan Anderson and Todd Mayo gave them a 49-41 lead.
Seton Hall didn’t go away, however, as another 3-pointer, this time from Fuquan Edwin, cut the lead to five with 5:10 to play before free throws by Mayo and Gardner essentially iced the game.
Gardner led all scorers with 17 points and also grabbed five rebounds. Mayo chipped in 12 points, all in the second half, when Marquette’s offense needed a spark.
Williams praised Mayo after the sophomore hit a critical off-balance 3-pointer that ended up being a dagger.
“Whether he plays 30 minutes or three minutes, it’s about continuing to grow and continuing to learn and not letting all the emotion get to him,” Williams said of Mayo’s performance.
“Obviously he’s been through a lot and I’ve been through a lot with him and his family,” Williams said. “I think he has grown and in the end, when I’m old and not coaching, it’s about their growth as people.”
Karlis had 14 and Cosby added 13 to lead the Pirates, who dropped to 12-6 on the year and 1-4 in Big East play. Seton Hall has now lost four straight after a one-point win at DePaul to begin conference play.
Marquette’s offense was sluggish throughout the game, needing a Vander Blue 3-pointer with eight seconds left in the first half to take a 26-16 lead to the locker room.
Like it has done for its last six games, however, Marquette found a way to gut out a victory.
The Golden Eagles will look to improve to 5-0 in conference play but have to do it in a tough environment in Cincinnati, where the Bearcats are 8-3 this year, although they’ve lost their last three contests at Fifth Third Arena.