16-17, 6-12 Conf

Marquette makes statement with convincing Big East win

NEW YORK -- For the first time since Dominic James broke his left foot and saw his senior season come to an early end, Marquette won. And the Golden Eagles snapped the four-game losing streak looking a lot like they did when James was running the show.

"We were much better than we had been in the previous four games from a defensive perspective," first-year coach Buzz Williams said after No. 21 Marquette held St. John's to a Big East tournament-record 10 points in the first half on the way to a 74-45 victory Wednesday.

"Obviously when we're able to get consecutive stops we're able score much better playing downhill than taking it out of the net," he said. "In general, we were much better defensively"

They didn't have to take it out of the net very often in the opening 20 minutes against the Red Storm. Williams was asked if he considered the first half perfect defense.

"They scored three baskets so it was relatively close," Williams joked. "Dominic definitely changed us defensively because we were able to put so much pressure on the ball."

Wesley Matthews scored 20 points and Lazar Hayward added 17 for the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles (24-8), who advanced to Thursday's quarterfinals against fourth-seeded and 10th-ranked Villanova.

The four losses were all to ranked teams -- Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse -- and now comes another, and the Golden Eagles and Wildcats split their two games this season, the most recent one a 101-84 win for Villanova.

"The last time we played they shot 73 percent in the second half so we'll have our hands full," Williams said. "They absolutely whipped us, more so than any other team in our league."

James sat on the first seat of the bench in a warmup suit, his crutches next to him.

"He's pushing for us and for our team so much and helps out a lot because he could be easily be on the sideline sulking, pouting, being mad," said, Matthews, James' roommate on the road. "He still feels as much a part of this team as anything and our success is his success. That's how he feels."

It was Marquette's ninth straight win over the Red Storm, a streak that dates to 1966.

Paris Horne had 15 points for the Red Storm (16-17), who advanced to the second round with a 64-59 victory over Georgetown. The last time St. John's won two games in a Big East tournament was 2000 when the Red Storm won the third of their three titles.

St. John's had three field goals in the first half and the third, a banked rebound jumper by Justin Burrell with 1:28 left, made it 31-10 and brought a sarcastic cheer from the crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Marquette then closed the half on a 7-0 run for a 38-10 lead.

"We took them out of what they wanted to do," Matthews said. "They played their hand and we played ours and we outworked them at both ends of the court."

The Red Storm shot 13.6 percent in the half (3-for-22), missing all six of their 3-point attempts, and they committed 10 turnovers.

Marquette shot 45.2 percent in the half (14-for-31).

The 10 points were the lowest ever in a half in a Big East tournament game breaking the 14 scored by Georgetown against Seton Hall in 2001, a 58-40 loss for the Hoyas. It was the fewest St. John's scored in a half since it managed 10 against Duke on Feb. 25, 2007. The Red Storm trailed by 24 at the half of that 67-50 loss.

"We played like a tired team," Red Storm coach Norm Roberts said. "We had some opportunities early and didn't make shots. They capitalized on it and we hung our heads a bit when we shouldn't have. It's all a maturation process."

The Red Storm matched their first-half output in the first 6:44 of the second half but they only managed to trim one point off the lead. Marquette's biggest lead was 72-34.

St. John's shot 62.5 percent in the second half (15-for-24), bringing the mark for the game to 39.1 (18-for-46).

Hayward and Matthews both had nine rebounds as Marquette finished with a 41-22 advantage on the boards.

"They hurt us on the glass and usually we hurt other people on the glass," Roberts said. "They scored early on second shots and that uncharacteristic of us."

The loss wasn't St. John's worst in the Big East tournament as it fell 81-50 to Providence in 1987.