Coming off some down time, Marquette looks to continue the success that’s made it a serious Big East contender.
The No. 16 Golden Eagles aim for a third straight victory overall and bid to halt their recent struggles against host DePaul on Saturday when the teams meet in Chicago.
Sitting one game out of first place in the Big East, Marquette (16-5, 8-2) has won 10 of its last 12 games — with those defeats coming to fellow league contenders Providence and Xavier on the road by a combined nine points. However, the Golden Eagles haven’t played since a 74-53 win at Seton Hall last Saturday.
Coach Shaka Smart welcomed the rest for his club in preparation for the final push of the regular season.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Smart said. “Our goal is to grow as much as anybody in the country between the start of the season and the end of the season.
“Our league is awesome. … These games really, really matter. … It’s going to be a grind going down the stretch.”
Marquette already has proved it can play well on the road in the league, shooting 50.8 percent from the floor while posting a 3-2 record.
Sophomore star Kam Jones has totaled 43 points in the last two games overall. He is averaging 17.6 points while shooting 49.3 percent — including 40.0 percent from 3-point range — in Big East road contests.
“I think the sky is the limit for us,” Marquette forward Oso Ighodaro told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We just got to keep getting better.”
The Golden Eagles actually need to improve their recent play versus DePaul (9-12, 3-7), which sits near the bottom of the league standings. The Blue Demons have won three of the last five meetings in the series, including two of the last three in Chicago.
DePaul also stunned current Big East leader and then-No. 8 Xavier 73-72 in their most recent home contest on Jan. 18. However, an 11-point road loss to then-No. 22 Providence and 81-76 setback to a Georgetown program that had dropped 29 straight conference games have followed.
While DePaul shot 49.2 percent against the Hoyas, it was whistled for a season-high 30 fouls and three players fouled out, including key starter Javan Johnson. Georgetown ended up going to the free-throw line 41 times, and made 27, while the Blue Demons were just 11-of-19 from the stripe.
“When you do those things, you’re not going to win,” DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield said. “You’re not giving yourself a chance to win.
“We’ve got to do a better job. We have to defend without fouling.”
Amid the Blue Demons’ struggles, sixth-year transfer Umoja Gibson has been the team’s most potent offensive presence. For the second time in three games, Gibson topped 20 points with 24 on 8-of-11 shooting against Georgetown.
DePaul is 7-3 this season at home, while Marquette is 4-3 in true road games.
–Field Level Media