Saturday, January 9, 2016

Marquette defeats St. John's behind 10 straight makes from the foul line

                                   Photo Credit: Geno Green

Free throws can be overlooked often in the game of basketball, but for the Marquette Golden Eagles (12-4, 2-2 BIG EAST), an 85.7 percentage (18-of-21) turned out to matter.

In the final minute of Marquette's 81-75 win over St. John's (7-10, 0-4 BIG EAST) on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, free throws turned out to be its best friend, with 10 straight makes within the stretch.

Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski emphasized the importance of making shots from the charity stripe.

"Those shots were huge and it shows our guys stepped up and showed courage," Wojciechowski said. 

"Going to the free throw line is a strength of ours. We are not a great shooting team and we try to attack the basket as often as we can. When you do that, hopefully you are in a good enough position to get fouled."

Marquette's Henry Ellenson picked up his 14th straight double-double, with 15 points on 6-of-11 from the field and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes.

Even with the performance, the freshman struggled with foul trouble for the majority of the game.

"You work with a player like Henry and drill him to recognize the situation where he is getting fouls," Wojciechowski said. "Henry didn't have the impact he normally has with the fouls, but he had a double-double in the second half and that is pretty darn good."

Golden Eagles center Luke Fischer led all scorers with 18, on 7-of-10 shooting, but fouled out with 1:43 left in regulation.

"I thought Luke started out the game well and was a bit more instinctive," Wojciechowski said. "He needs to do that and go up and we will live with those shots. When he is scoring in the paint, we are obviously a much better team." 

Durand Johnson led the Red Storm in the scoring department with 18, on 7-of-11 from the field in 27 minutes.

Game Recap:

Despite Marquette's 6-0 run to start the game, three turnovers in the first four minutes of the game off entry-level passes to Luke Fischer reared its ugly head.

The Red Storm capitalized on the Golden Eagles' errors as they went on a 7-0 run.

After Ellenson picked up his second personal foul at the 8:23 mark of the first half, St. John's Ron Mvouika drained his second triple of the game for its largest lead at 22-17.

Traci Carter's steal and layup cut Marquette's deficit to 24-22, but foul trouble struck again as Fischer picked up his second and went to the bench for the remainder of the first half.

St. John's took advantage of Fischer and Ellenson being benched as it went on a 13-5 run over a 4:44 stretch towards the latter stages of the first half.

After Johnson's triple, Wojciechwoski called timeout and the offense responded with back-to-back baskets from Haanif Cheatham. 

Going into the second half down 39-31, the Golden Eagles needed a spark and received one in Ellenson.

Down 47-40, Ellenson delivered a three-point play and then went on defense and helped stop a jump shot from Kassoum Yakwe.

Ellenson would score the next seven Marquette points as it trailed St. John's 50-47.

The Golden Eagles used an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the second half at 55-53, behind a layup and a three-pointer from Duane Wilson.

Both teams stayed within range until Wilson's back-to-back triples gave Marquette arm's length space with a 63-59 advantage. 

St. John's would not re-gain the lead again as Marquette used its free-throw shooting to pull away for a six-point win.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to action on Jan. 13 as St. John's returns to Madison Square Garden to take on long-time conference rival Georgetown at 5:30 p.m., while Marquette travels to take on Villanova at 7:30 p.m. Both games can be seen on FS1.

Before playing Georgetown, St. John's coach Chris Mullin will look to nip Saturday's game in the bud.

"We will get ready for [Georgetown] starting Monday and spend the next day flushing this one out," Mullin said.

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