Blue shot a personal best 13 of 20 from the field to help the Golden Eagles improve to 6-1 in Big East play this season moving into a tie for first place in the conference with Syracuse.
“It always feels good and especially at a high level like this in the Big East,” said Blue. “I’m just happy we got the win. I care more about the wins and losses.”
Marquette played a close half with USF leading 28-24 after the first 20-minutes of the game. The Golden Eagles used a 10-0 run coming out of halftime spanning over five minutes to extend their lead comfortably. Davante Gardner was assessed a flagrant-2 foul and was ejected from the game with 13:46 remaining in the second half after fighting for a loose ball and ripping it from a defender.
According to Blue, “I thought he flopped. It was a flagrant foul. But, we just had to move on and win the game.” Big East conference officials will review the flagrant-2 foul and determine if Gardner will be suspended the next game which is the standard rule for that type of ejection.
“I’m not exactly sure about the process, but we will know something by the morning,” said head coach Buzz Williams.
Marquette also had a nice contribution from Trent Lockett who scored 10 points and pulled down 8 rebounds while dishing out 3 assists. The Golden Eagles uncharacteristically turned the ball over 14 times as a team in the game, but USF couldn’t convert on those opportunities shooting just 27.3% from the field.
Vander Blue was taking a lot of rhythm shots and Marquette as a team put together two solid shooting halves finishing the game with a field goal mark of 55.1%. Marquette scored 38 of their 63 points in the paint and were finding holes in USF’s 2-3 zone defense.
Coach Williams emphasized that Vander is now a leader on the team and a lot more is expected. Instead of hiding behind all that upperclassmen talent in his first two years which included now NBA players Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, Blue is finally starting to shine.
“He’s beginning to understand the value of a good shot,” said Williams. “We shoot 29% after a paint touch, than a non-paint touch possession. I think he’s worked incredibly hard on his own and our assistant coaches have done an incredible job with him. It’s the only way you can improve.”
Blue is the first Marquette player to reach 30 points since Jimmy Butler scored 30 against Cincinnati in 2011. It is also the first time a Marquette player has reached 30 points in a victory since Steve Novak poured in 41 in the Golden Eagles’ first ever Big East game defeating #2 ranked UConn 94-79 in 2006.
Marquette victory extended their home winning streak which now ranks as sixth-longest in NCAA Division I. “We’ve won 21 home games because our kids enjoying playing at home and it’s because of the support of our students,” said Williams.
Starting Sunday, Marquette will play 4 games (3 on the road) in the next 9 days returning to the court for a 1p.m. afternoon matchup in Louisville against the #12 ranked Cardinals.