Saturday, February 24, 2018

DePaul 70, Marquette 62: Blue Demons win first home game in Big East play

Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— If first you don’t succeed, then try again.

For the DePaul Blue Demons, eight of their 17 losses this season have come by single digits and late-game executions were the main source. In front of 9,053 fans at Wintrust Arena, the Blue Demons (11-17, 4-12 Big East) showed resiliency and aggression as they held off a late charge from the Marquette Golden Eagles (16-12, 7-9 Big East) in a 70-62 win on Saturday afternoon.

Max Strus followed up 21-point outing at Villanova on Feb. 21 with his second double-double of the season (20 points, 11 rebounds). Strus saw DePaul’s first home win in Big East play this season as a true test of character.

“It is a test to our character,” Strus said. “All year, we have been battling in most games and took the next step by not making mistakes and finishing one out for the team.”

Marin Maric finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds in 38 minutes and DePaul coach Dave Leitao relishes having the graduate transfer from Northern Illinois contribute in multiple facets of the game.

“Maric is active and playing like the way you want somebody with experience to play,” Leitao said. “He becomes somebody you have to guard with a second defender coming in and passing out of it when necessary. Really happy and proud to see him play the way he is.”

Marquette’s Markus Howard played despite missing the St. John’s game due to a hip injury suffered at Creighton on Feb. 17.

Golden Eagles coach Steve Wojciechowski did not intend for Howard to play 31 minutes and go 5-of-13 from the field (12 points), but got backed into a corner after Andrew Rowsey committed two fouls in the first 1:22 in regulation.

“Rowsey got two fouls early, so [Howard] had to play much more than anticipated,” Wojciechowski stated. “It’s not really fair to Markus because he has done very little [in recovery].”

Howard’s entrance into the game off the bench did not help Marquette’s cause as it started 2-of-7 from the field and committed four turnovers in the first 4:05 of the game. DePaul also started 2-of-7, but would get into a better rhythm on offense, but Marquette kept the deficit within one possession in the first ten minutes of the first half.

Down five points, MU got into a groove on offense as it made seven of its next nine field goals as it went on a 15-3 run to take a 29-22 lead. The Golden Eagles would not relinquish control for the remainder of the half as timely defensive plays from Theo John kept them ahead at 33-28 after 20 minutes.

The early stages of the second half witnessed DePaul taking advantage of Marquette’s shooting woes (1-of-8) as it went on an 13-2 run to retake the lead at 39-37 at the 15:02 mark. In need of a jolt, Rowsey delivered with a three-pointer off a pump fake from the baseline to cut the Blue Demons’ lead to one point.

Strus came alive as he delivered a jumper and a three-pointer to give DePaul its largest lead of the game at 46-40 halfway through the second half as Marquette went ice cold on the other end. The Golden Eagles went into another scoring drought, which totaled 6:04, while the Blue Demons’ ball movement continued to excel as Strus found a cutting Maric to go up double digits.

Rowsey snapped the Golden Eagles’ slide with three free throws, which highlighted an 8-2 run. Despite DePaul’s swarming defense, which caused difficult perimeter looks, Rousey and Hauser delivered with ease as Marquette pulled to within at five points with 2:36 left.

The Blue Demons iced things as 10 of their 23 free throw makes came in the final two minutes, while the Golden Eagles’ lack of ability to penetrate to the foul line cost them again as they went 6-of-9.

Looking Ahead:

The Golden Eagles look to get back to their winning ways as they travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the Georgetown Hoyas on Feb. 26, while the Blue Demons will look to win back-to-back Big East games for the first time since Jan. 2015 as they play the Creighton Bluejays at CenturyLink Center on Feb. 27.

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