MILWAUKEE – After four-straight games against top-15 opponents to open the Big East season, Marquette was happy to finally play someone outside the top 25.
No one was happier than Darius Johnson-Odom and Maurice Acker, who both finished with career highs in points, as the Marquette Golden Eagles defeated the Providence Friars, 93-63, Sunday afternoon.
Johnson-Odom put on a clinic in the first half, surpassing his career high of 18 by halftime, with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and helping Marquette to a 45-29 lead at intermission.
“I think it was my energy,” Johnson-Odom said of his performance. “With not playing for a week and our last game being a loss, you want to come out with a lot of energy. We had a lot of passion and emotion in this game,”
Acker was on fire throughout the game, connecting on eight-of-nine field goal attempts and nailing all six of his three-point baskets. Shooting under 40 percent in his collegiate career, Acker was spot-on the whole game, with his only miss coming on a lay-up in the second half with the game easily out of reach.
“I think that over the last six to eight days, [Acker] kind of got the senioritis bug, in a positive way,” MU head coach Buzz Williams said. “Similar to what [Hayward] and [David Cubillan] have had since finals ended. They realize that their careers are about to come to a close, and they’re not doing anything out of selfish ambition.”
Marquette shot a blistering 59 percent from the field in the first half, including 8-of-13 from beyond the arc, thanks to Johnson-Odom’s 4-of-6 effort.
“I don’t know that we took a bad shot today,” Williams said. “And I think that’s very hard to do within the multiple changing defenses in the full court and in the half court, the way Providence plays.”
Late in the first half, Joe Fulce and Bilal Dixon got caught up in a scuffle coming down the court and Fulce was called for a technical foul. After a long delay, the referees determined Providence’s Jamine Peterson had thrown an elbow at Fulce, and he was ejected from the game. The Friars leading scorer and rebounder finished the game with nine points in just 18 minutes.
Providence never recovered after losing Peterson, and was outscored 50-36 after the ejection and outrebounded by 11 for the game.
In the second half, it was the seniors’ turn to steal the show as Acker scored 15 points and Lazar Hayward added 17 of his own. Hayward finished the game with 22.
Marquette burst out of the gates with an 11-2 run to open the half, capped off by an Acker three-pointer to give Marquette a 57-31 advantage. After that, the Golden Eagles used an array of three pointers, slam dunks, and stingy defense to add to the rout.
After a week between games, Marquette showed no signs of rust and topped season-highs in multiple categories for the game, including field goal percentage (61.4 percent), three-pointers (13), three-point percentage (62 percent), and points in a Big East contest.
“Basically, all we can do it keep doing what we’re doing, and that’s working every day.” Acker said. “We want to be one of the top teams in the conference and surprise a lot of people, and in order to do that, we’re going to need to work.”
Providence was held to just 38 percent from the field and a season-low 63 points, despite a career high 24 from freshman Vincent Council. The loss moves the Friars to 3-3 in conference play.
Marquette improves to 2-3 in conference play and will take on the Depaul Blue Demons Wednesday night in Chicago.
NOTES: Maurice Acker’s six three-pointers made was a career high… David Cubillan dished out a career-high seven assists… freshman Junior Cadougan has been cleared to play and was available off the bench if needed.