Saturday, February 4, 2017

Marquette 92, DePaul 79: Golden Eagles shoot 64 percent from long range

                                                          Photo Credit: Geno Green

ROSEMONT— The Marquette Golden Eagles’ perimeter game was on full display as they made 14-of-22 three-pointers (64 percent) in a 92-79 win over league rivals the DePaul Blue Demons (8-15, 1-9 Big East).

Pacing the Big East in three-point shooting at 41.7 percent before the DePaul game, Marquette (15-8, 6-5 Big East) took advantage of slow rotations from DePaul’s defense as Andrew Rowsey led the way with a game-high 22 points on 5-of-6 from long distance.

After trailing 8-7 at the 16:22 mark, Marquette began to find its offensive rhythm and coach Steve Wojciechowski felt relieved despite two early turnovers.

"We stopped turning the ball over after the first four minutes and shared the ball and found the best shot on our possessions," Wojciechowski said. 

"[Marquette] shares the ball and finds open people as they have a multitude of people who can nail open shots," DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. "It takes almost a yeoman's effort to stop them at the perimeter."

Marquette’s efficiency was on full display with 22 assists on 30 field goals, but Luke Fischer held down the defensive fort with a game-high seven blocks, to go along with 13 points and eight rebounds.

"Luke's protection of our rim, especially in the second half was critical to our win," Wojciechowski said. "(DePaul) hung around down six to eight points in the second half and had two blocks in particular that led to scores on the other end. We want Luke to be our shot blocker and continue as the season progresses."

Haanif Cheatham proved to be straw that stirred the drink for Marquette with 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

"When Haanif is at his best, he is a guy who can stuff a stat sheet," Wojciechowski said. "He doesn't have the offensive explosiveness that some of our other guys have, but can impact the game in more ways. When he is playing really well, the number of points won't tell the whole story."

The Blue Demons finished with five players in double figures scoring, highlighted by a season-high 21 points from Tre’Darius McCallum, to go along with a team-high seven rebounds. Despite the effort, McCallum emphasized helping other teammates.

"I don't worry about scoring much, but I am trying to do whatever it takes to help the team win," McCallum said.

Fischer set the tone early with a conventional three-point play and got the Marquette crowd on its feet. DePaul answered and went on a 14-4 run, highlighted by a layup from a cutting Brandon Cyrus.

Marquette responded off the timeout with a 21-2 run, which showcased its three-point arsenal, going 5-for-5. The balance of Marquette’s offense was on display in the first 10:11 of the game with seven assists on nine field goal makes.

The Golden Eagles’ balanced attack continued to blossom for the remainder of the half as they went into the locker room with a 44-36 lead on the Blue Demons with 8-of-12 three-point makes.

Both teams came out on an offense barrage with a combined 28 points (DePaul 15, Marquette 13) in the first 4:53 of the second half. Despite the outburst, Marquette’s lead would rise back to double digits at the 12:46 mark.

"Trading baskets is not a good formula for us," Wojciechowski said. "That's a very dangerous thing to do and I thought we had the look about us in terms of being in a groove and not having to bear down. We have to keep talking about it until it changes."

Clinging to a 73-67 lead under five minutes left, Rowsey and Jajuan Johnson delivered back-to-back three-point makes as the Marquette fans voiced its appreciation and were on the way to a season sweep of DePaul.

The Golden Eagles return to action on Feb. 7 as they host the No. 16 Butler Bulldogs, while the Blue Demons travel to Cincinnati to take on the Xavier Musketeers on Feb. 8.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.