Three days after a disheartening home loss to Pitt, the Marquette Golden Eagles (17-9, 8-6) kick started their three-game Big East road trip with a hard-fought 79-76 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats (15-11, 6-8) Sunday afternoon at Fifth Third Arena.
Playing in their first overtime game since March 7, 2009 (an 86-79 loss to Syracuse), MU was led by 20 points apiece from Jimmy Butler (5-9 FG, 9-10 FT) and Darius Johnson-Odom (8-15 FG, 3-7 3PT FG) while junior Joe Fulce added a career-high tying 13 points (6-8 FG) in 15 minutes off the bench.
Overcoming a rough shooting night (13 points, 4-13 from the field), Lazar Hayward, who tied Jerel McNeal for the most games played in school history (130), put MU on his back to the tune of eight points over the final 27.5 second in regulation and overtime to help preserve the Golden Eagles’ sixth victory in seven games.
Midway through the first half, however, few would have believed the MU would have needed overtime to leave the Queen City with a win.
After a Larry Davis three put the Bearcats up 18-14 with nearly eight minutes in, MU put together a 17-0 run over the ensuing five minutes to lead 31-18 with 7:47 remaining in the half.
Led by junior forward Rashard Bishop’s five points, Cincinnati rattled off 21 of the final 23 points of the half while holding Buzz Williams’ crew to 0-7 shooting and forcing four turnovers to close out the first 20 minutes of play with a 39-33 lead.
MU, who shot 45.6 percent (26-57) from the field for the game, was paced by Johnson-Odom’s 13 points (5-7 FG, 3-4 3PT FG) and Butler’s eight at intermission.
Outshooting MU from the beyond the arc in the opening frame—66.7 percent (6-9) to 46.2 percent (6-13)—the Bearcats were led by 6’3” sophomore guard Dion Dixon’s nine points (3-5 FG, 2-2 3PT FG) and three boards.
Despite their lackluster performance on both ends of the floor to close out the half, MU remained aggressive offensively and whittled the deficit to 46-45 with 15:35 on the clock on the heels of a 9-2 run.
The Bearcats kept the Golden Eagles at bay until a Maurice Acker three with 9:41 remaining in regulation put MU ahead for the first time since the first half, 57-56.
MU would stretch the lead to three, 61-58; however, after a layup from Ibrahima Thomas, the blue and gold found themselves trailing 64-61 with 4:17 to play.
After a David Cubillan three knotted the score at 64 apiece, Cincinnati led 67-64 after Thomas made one of two free throws with 43 seconds to play.
MU corralled the missed free-throw attempt, followed by Hayward pump-faking Bishop and calmly draining the game-tying three from the left wing with 27.5 seconds remaining. Bishop would miss a three of his own on the other end with three seconds remaining, and the teams went into the extra session.
Butler and Hayward combined to score the first 10 points for MU in overtime, including a critical out-of-bounds play with 15 seconds remaining.
Clinging to a 75-73 advantage, Hayward, coming out of a Golden Eagle timeout, found Butler in stride as he broke free of the defense to throw down a one-handed slam that made it a two-possession game.
After a three pointer from Bishop cut the MU lead to one, 77-76, with 7.9 seconds on the clock on the ensuing Bearcat possession, Acker was immediately fouled by Cashmere Wright on the subsequent inbounds play.
After Acker coolly nailed both attempts, Deonta Vaughn, who finished with six points (3-8 FG) in 36 minutes of action, was unable to send the game into a second overtime as his deep three fell short as time expired.
Bishop lead the Bearcats, who have now lost four of their last five games, with 17 points (7-12 FG, 2-6 3PT FG) with Yancy Gates adding 14 points (6-9 FG, 2-2 FT) and three rebounds.
MU returns to action Wednesday night when they play St. John’s (15-11, 5-9), who have won three of four after dropping five in a row.
• Hayward (13 points, 11 rebounds) earned his sixth double double in Big East play this season.
• Despite the loss, Cincinnati still leads the all-time series against MU, 24-18. Sunday marked the fifth time a Bearcat-Golden Eagle matchup has went into overtime (MU has now won three of the five games that have required an extra session).
• Cincinnati freshman sensation Lance Stephenson, who was averaging 11.6 points per game (tied with Vaughn for the team lead) entering Sunday’s game, was held to two points (1-4 FG) in 11 minutes. It was the fewest points scored by the Brooklyn, N.Y. native this season.
• Only three Golden Eagles saw playing time off the bench—led by Fulce’s 15 minutes—while each starter played at least 37 minutes. Butler played 43 of a possible 45 minutes.
• Cincinnati trumped MU in rebounding (34-33), points in the paint (40-28), points off turnovers (20-11), fast-break points (10-9), second-chance points (15-13) and bench points (45-13). MU, on the other hand, topped the Bearcats from the charity stripe (94.1% to 50.0%) and beyond the arc (40.7% to 40.0%).