Markus Howard proved again that it’s hard to keep a good man down.
The Marquette senior guard, who left his team’s double-overtime win at Xavier on Jan. 29 with a bloody nose, came back on Feb. 1 and scored a game-high 31 points to fuel a come-from-behind, 76-72 victory over DePaul.
With eight days to regroup and fully heal, Howard and the Golden Eagles shoot for their sixth win in seven games Sunday as Marquette welcomes No. 19 Butler to Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee for a Big East Conference clash.
At 16-6 overall and 6-4 in the conference, Marquette is moving toward lock territory in regards to making the NCAA Tournament. The presence of Howard, who leads the nation in scoring at 27.9 points per game, makes the Golden Eagles a threat in any game.
Even at less than 100 percent, Howard is capable of carrying his team to a win, as he showed in helping Marquette rally from a 40-34 halftime deficit against the Blue Demons.
“I just think we have guys that fight until the end,” he said. “They were scoring at will in the first half, and we had to do certain things in the second half to rally.”
For Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, the victory over the Big East’s last-place team was further proof of how difficult it is to win games. It required liberal use of a zone defense in the second half to slow down DePaul.
“Winning in this league is just hard,” he said. “DePaul in another league is a no-brainer NCAA team. We don’t play a lot of zone, but it was effective for us today.”
While Marquette has enjoyed rest time with a midweek bye, Butler (18-5, 6-4) pulled out a 79-76 win Wednesday night over No. 10 Villanova with one of the season’s biggest shots. Senior guard Kamar Baldwin swished a step-back 3-pointer over Collin Gillespie as time expired, pulling the Bulldogs into a four-way tie for third in the conference.
“He gave me space, so I took it,” Baldwin said. “When I drove it, he kind of backed up, so I went to my step-back. It’s great, not for me personally, but all the energy and hard work we put in out there. To celebrate afterward is great.”
A shot that Fox TV analyst Bill Raftery called a “double order of onions” capped a 17-point, eight-rebound performance for Baldwin. The Bulldogs canned 57.7 percent of their field-goal attempts and committed just six turnovers in further burnishing an already solid resume.
Butler also welcomed back point guard Aaron Thompson (left wrist) from a five-game absence, which helps its offensive execution and improves its perimeter defense. Thompson scored nine points in 25 minutes against Villanova.
The Wildcats’ point total pushed the scoring average for Butler’s opponents up to 60.6, the first time it has topped 60 this season. The Bulldogs still rated ninth in the nation in scoring defense through Thursday’s games, and their opponents’ field-goal rate of 38.2 percent ranked 16th in the country.
–Field Level Media