Important Homestand

Marquette knows it can be as good as any team in the country with its strong guard play. But the 10th-ranked Golden Eagles hope the continued emergence of forward Dwight Burke will lift them into elite status as they begin a five-game homestand Saturday against Sacramento State.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Marquette -33 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Marquette -33 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

The Golden Eagles (6-1) have made the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons, but a lack of frontcourt depth has contributed to first-round exits in each year. While juniors Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews have given Marquette a consistent presence in the Top 25, it was Burke's play last Saturday in an 81-76 victory at intrastate rival Wisconsin that propelled coach Tom Crean's team back into the top 10.

The junior finished with career highs of 12 points - many coming on drop-off passes after James penetrated into the lane - and nine rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, in just 17 minutes. The Golden Eagles ended Wisconsin's 28-game home winning streak, the third-longest streak in the country at the time.

"I think it's playing desperate," Crean said about his team outrebounding the taller Badgers 41-34. "I think our team has got to understand that if we don't play that way, we're not going to beat (top) teams."

The 6-foot-8 Burke supplanted Ousmane Barro in the starting lineup at the start of the season and has averaged 5.7 points and 4.1 rebounds - well above his career totals of 1.4 and 1.7, respectively, per game.

"That consistency out of the post position, that's what we've been lacking," said James, who finished with 20 points and a season-high six assists. "If we continue to play like that, and guys like Ousmane and Dwight continue to step up, we're going to be a great team."

Barro contributed nine points, four rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes off the bench in last Saturday's victory.

Marquette senior forward Dan Fitzgerald may miss his third consecutive game due to a sprained wrist. He is averaging 5.3 points and shooting 53.3 percent (8-for-15) from 3-point range. McNeal leads the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game, closely followed by James (15.4), and sophomore Lazar Hayward also is in double figures at 12.6 per game.

The homestand concludes with Marquette opening its Big East schedule Jan. 3 against Providence.

It has been a challenging week for Sacramento State (2-7), which is playing its second ranked opponent in four days and third this season. The Hornets were routed 93-66 at No. 16 Oregon on Tuesday, committing 22 turnovers and shooting just 38.2 percent in their 12th straight road loss.

Loren Leath made five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points for Sacramento State, which led 27-22 with 8:50 to play in the first half before faltering. Sacramento State has four players out with injuries, most notably starting point guard Roderick Adams and forward Curtis Harrison.

Leath is averaging a team-high 18.9 points and is shooting better from 3-point range at 43.5 percent (30-for-69) than overall at 40.3 percent. Vinnie McGhee is contributing 9.2 points and 7.1 assists per game but also averaging 4.0 turnovers.

The Hornets have committed 20 or more turnovers in six of their nine games, including 22 in each of the last two. That plays right into the hands of James and McNeal, who have combined for 35 steals for Marquette.

This is the first meeting between these teams.

by Staff Writers - Email Us

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