During the first two months of their 2012-13 campaign, the Marquette Golden Eagles have found life outside of the BMO Harris Bradley Center to be rather treacherous.
Yet, after sustaining the worst defeat of the Buzz Williams era against Florida and falling victim to UW-Green Bay for the first time in more than a decade, the blue and gold finally broke through on Saturday afternoon.
Paced by Vander Blue’s season-high 22 points, Marquette (12-3, 3-0) upended Pitt, 74-67, in overtime at the Petersen Events Center to notch its fifth straight victory and remain unbeaten in league play.
Beginning its conference slate with three consecutive triumphs for the first time in four seasons, Marquette, who shot 47.9 percent on the game, has been seemingly immune to the pressure cooker that is the Big East as the Golden Eagles have won each of their past three contests—two of which included overtime—by an average of 4.6 points.
“I just think it sums up what we’ve been doing all year,” cited Blue, who scored eight points in the extra frame, as reported by the AP. “I’m sure a lot of people didn’t have us winning…we just wanted to make sure wherever we go, we do what we do.”
The Panthers (13-4, 1-3), meanwhile, are now 0-4 in games decided by nine points or less and have dropped three of their past four outings.
“We need to grow up quickly,” said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon, whose club shot 50.0 percent (13-of-26) from the free-throw line, including a lackadaisical 2-of-7 showing in overtime, according to the AP, “and figure out a way to get it done.”
One week removed from upsetting No. 19 Georgetown, Marquette, who had four players put forward double-digit scoring efforts, was in the driver’s seat for the bulk of the afternoon.
Following a three-point basket by sophomore Juan Anderson to make it 3-2 in favor of MU, the Golden Eagles, who out rebounded Pitt, 32-26, led for all but 18 seconds over the final 17:55 of the first half en route to holding a 33-30 edge at intermission.
The second half, in which the two schools shot a combined 40.4 percent, saw the Golden Eagles never trail and, with MU nursing a 57-53 lead with 33 ticks remaining, appeared poised to exit the Steel City with a victory.
However, Pitt made it a one-possession affair via a Lamar Patterson free throw with 24 seconds on the clock. Following a misfire from beyond the arc by James Robinson, the Panthers got a second crack to salvage the game.
Patterson, who finished with a career-best 22 points, did just that as he calmly sank a three from the top of the arc as time expired to knot it at 57 apiece.
Nevertheless, the Golden Eagles, who staved off defeat at the end of regulation courtesy of a buzzer-beating triple by Junior Cadougan on Jan. 1 against UConn, proved to be unfazed.
“We wanted to make sure we started off overtime delivering the first blow,” said Blue, according to the AP. “Once we hit the first bucket and the first stop, we feel like we’re OK.”
Marquette proved to be more than OK as the Golden Eagles, behind six points from Blue, opened the extra period with a 10-2 run to set up a rather anti-climatic finish.
Marquette returns to action on Wednesday, Jan. 16 when they play host to the Pirates of Seton Hall at 8:00p.m. CST.