Blue leads Marquette past Pitt

Madison native scores 19
Blue leads Marquette past Pitt

Marquette is back atop the Big East Conference after a 79-69 victory over No. 18 Pittsburgh on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Pittsburgh came into the game having held its last three opponents to under 55 points and was fifth in the nation in points allowed, holding opponents to 54.4 points per game.

The Panthers also were shooting 48 percent from the field, 14th-best in the country and second in the conference.

Against Marquette, though, the Panthers gave up a season-high 79 points as the Golden Eagles shot 56.5 percent from the field, including 5-of-11 3-pointers and also hit 22 of 29 free throws.

“Our best performance on the road in Big East play (this season) would be at Pitt and I’d say our best performance at home in a Big East game thus far would be Pitt,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said.

“They’re one of the top two or three teams in our league.”

Vander Blue led the way for the Golden Eagles (18-6, 9-3 in the Big East), scoring 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting after scoring only seven last week in a 63-55 loss to No. 15 Georgetown.

“I had sort of a weird feeling about how I played at Georgetown,” Blue said. “I felt like we could’ve got that one there. That was a big one. … I just wanted to make sure I was mentally and physically there right out of the gates to give us the boost and energy that we needed to win.

“I was just thinking take what was given to me, don’t force anything and just play with unbelievable energy.”

Davante Gardner added 14 points and Jamil Wilson had 13, both off the bench, for Marquette, which has won three of its last four games and drew even with idle Georgetown for first place in the conference.

Pittsburgh shot only 41.7 percent from the field, despite a 7-of-21 effort from beyond the arc. But the Panthers went to the free throw line only 16 times and although they made 12, Marquette’s 10-point advantage at the stripe matched the final victory margin.

“We got the ball around the basket and didn’t finish early; for whatever reason, we didn’t,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixson said. “They made shots all the way through.

“They shot 61 percent and didn’t miss any free throws in the first half. We got outscored at the line by 10 and lost by 10.”

Lamar Patterson made 7-of-12 shots and led the Panthers (20-6, 8-5) with 19 points — 10 of those coming in the first half — and pulled down five rebounds.

Tray Woodall was the only other Pittsburgh player to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points to go along with eight assists, and Dante Taylor added eight points off the bench.

“They wanted it more today,” Patterson said. “Not much else we can say. When it feels like every ball was bouncing their way it’s because they wanted it more. They were going to get it.

“We were on our heels. When a loose ball was there we were a step behind. They were the more aggressive team and deserved to win.”

Blue and Lockett combined for 21 points in the first half, making 9-of-10 shots, as the Golden Eagles shot 61 percent for the half.

Marquette used a 2-3 zone featuring big men Chris Otule and Davante Gardner to hold Pittsburgh to 39.5 percent shooting from the field and eight points in the paint.

After falling behind by 10 points with 7:22 left in the first half, Pittsburgh went on a 9-3 run and got within four on Cameron Wright’s layup to make it a 31-27 game with 4:39 left.

Marquette came back with an 11-2 run to take a 42-29 lead into halftime.

The shooting problems continued for Pittsburgh in the second half, as the Panthers fell behind by as many as 18 while their three-game winning streak came to an end.

NOTES: Marquette honored its 2002-2003 team, which won the regular-season Conference USA championship and advanced to the Final Four. The Golden Eagles beat Pittsburgh, 77-74, in the Sweet 16 that year. … Saturday marked the last regular-season conference meeting between the teams. Pittsburgh is leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference next season and Marquette will join other Big East Catholic schools in forming a new conference.