Looking to Build

For two games, Marquette didn't look like a Big East title contender. That certainly wasn't the case in the its last outing.

Despite a pair of uncharacteristic performances early in their conference schedule, the 13th-ranked Golden Eagles look to build on a big victory and continue their best Big East start on Thursday when they visit Louisville.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Louisville -3 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on Louisville -3 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

After cruising past Providence in its conference opener, Marquette (13-2, 3-1) shot a season-low 41.5 percent from the field as it was upset 79-64 at West Virginia on Jan. 6. The Golden Eagles' poor shooting continued two nights later, connecting on just 32.8 percent of their attempts, but they still managed a 61-56 win over Seton Hall.

The Golden Eagles bounced back from those tough outings on Saturday, when they shot 46.6 percent in a 92-66 victory over Notre Dame, ending the Irish's 10-game winning streak. It also was Marquette's most lopsided win in the teams' 109-game series.

"It was a statement win, not so much on the outside - for us," said Marquette coach Tom Crean, whose team improved to 3-1 in Big East play for the first time since it joined the conference in 2005-06. "It was a statement that we could play this way, follow a game plan, eliminate mental errors, play with adversity."

The Golden Eagles forced a season-high 24 turnovers in the victory.

"We really have the same plan going into each game, and it always starts with ball pressure," said Lazar Hayward, one of two Marquette players with four steals Saturday. "We were getting stops, and whenever we get stops we're off and running. That's when we're at our best."

That's also helped the Golden Eagles average 80.1 points per game this season - their highest average since 1970-71, when they scored 81.7 per contest.

Marquette has won nine of its last 10 games, but its loss at West Virginia was its fourth straight in conference road games. The Golden Eagles haven't beaten a Big East team on the road since a 70-68 victory over South Florida on Jan. 28.

Marquette, though, beat Louisville 74-65 in its last visit to Freedom Hall on Jan. 15, 2007, and has won four of six there since 2002.

Continuing that success could be a challenge against a Cardinals team that has overcome injury problems to win seven of eight games. Knee injuries have limited center David Padgett to six games and forward Juan Palacios to seven, but Louisville (12-4, 2-1) had both in the lineup for Sunday's 64-49 win over Rutgers.

"We're getting all our guys back," said guard Jerry Smith, who led the Cardinals with 14 points. "We finally have everybody back so we're practicing hard. The practices are much more intense and it's showing on the court. We're all coming together as one."

Though Padgett and Palacios are both playing again, Louisville coach Rick Pitino says it will take some time before they're both fully healthy.

"We're getting very close," Pitino said. "But Padgett is nowhere near 100 percent. He's about three weeks away. Palacios is about 90 percent."

Although the Cardinals lost their home game against the Eagles last season, they beat then-12th-ranked Marquette 61-59 in Milwaukee on Feb. 17 to earn a split of the season series. They've won four of the teams' last five meetings, and lead the series 35-24, including a 19-11 mark at Freedom Hall.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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