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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Recap: Pittsburgh 89 - Marquette 81

Ryan Ellerbusch

Marquette got its first taste of true competition in the Big East Conference, falling to the 5th ranked Pittsburgh Panthers 89-81 on Saturday afternoon. This game was the first of seven of the team’s next eight conference matchups pitting Marquette against programs currently ranked in at least one of the national polls.

Pittsburgh got off to a great start early by catching on fire from behind the three-point arc, going 8-12 shooting in the first half behind their experienced and physically gifted team. Pittsburgh had outstanding team chemistry on the court, returning four starters from a season ago, as eight Panthers contributed five points or more to lead the balanced scoring attack.

For Marquette, they attempted to establish their fast tempo style of play and succeeded thanks to the toughness of Darius Johnson-Odom who poured in a game-high 20 points and was also the go-to-guy for the Golden Eagles the majority of the game.

However, the remainder of Marquette’s roster was not as consistent as Johnson-Odom was on Saturday afternoon. It was a tale of two halves for key players such as Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler. In the first half, Crowder scored eight quick points in eleven minutes, but was sidelined after getting into some foul trouble. Returning in the second half, Crowder was not his usual self and was a measly 1-7 from the field with a pair of turnovers too. Much like Crowder, his counterpart Jimmy Butler was 1-7 shooting from the field in the first-half, but turned it on by game’s end and finished with an impressive 17 points and 7 rebounds.

Approaching halftime, Pittsburgh seemed to be putting this game out of reach for Marquette by taking control of a game tied at 24 with 7:54 left in the first half and creating a 48-32 lead with 1:07 left in the first half capping a 24-8 run. Dwight Buycks regained the Golden Eagles’ team spirit and momentum though in the final minute with a long fadeaway three-pointer to end the half, which cut the halftime deficit to 11.

In the second half, Pittsburgh built their lead to as much as 16 points and continued their red hot shooting from all spots on the floor as Marquette struggled on their perimeter defense and surrendered 89 points. Marquette did have numerous opportunities to make a comeback with five consecutive Pittsburgh possessions ending in turnovers mid-way throughout the second half, which allowed Marquette to go on a brief 8-0 run. Nevertheless, the heavily favored Panthers with the home court advantage overpowered the Golden Eagles and we’re victorious in the end.

Monday, January 10, 2011 @ The Bradley Center - 6:00 p.m.

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