Having played some of the best basketball of his collegiate career over the past two months, Vander Blue took his game to a new level on Monday night.
Playing host to an inferior South Florida (10-10, 1-7) team—a squad ranked last or second-to-last among Big East clubs in points per game, field goal percentage, rebounds and assists—the Marquette Golden Eagles (15-4, 6-1) shook off a turnover-plagued first half and rode Blue’s career-best 30 points to a 63-50 victory over the Bulls at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The triumph for MU extended their home-winning streak to 21 straight (tied for fifth-longest in the nation) games and joined Syracuse as the lone league affiliates to have six conference wins to their respective names.
Additionally, Marquette, who begins a two-game road swing on Sunday afternoon against Louisville, shot 54.0 percent from the field, put forth a defensive effort which limited Stan Heath’s club to a mere 15 made baskets and won the battle of the boards, 33-27, among others.
The primary conduit for success on Monday evening, however, was the offensive onslaught put forth by Blue.
The 6’4”, 200-pound Madison native, who entered the week having averaged 15.0 points on 43.3 percent shooting over his past six outings, was a model of efficiency as Blue shot 13-of-20 from the field (both career highs), had only miscue to his name and accounted for nearly half of the points put on the scoreboard by MU.
Outside of Blue, who scored 21 points in the second half alone, the 25th-ranked Golden Eagles received a double-digit scoring effort from senior guard Trent Lockett, who finished with 10 points.
Buttressed by a combined 19 turnovers during the game’s first 20 minutes, the opening frame between MU and USF, who will play one another in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Feb. 6, was not exactly aesthetically pleasing. When the first half did come to end, though, the Golden Eagles, behind Blue’s nine points, led 28-24.
Following a jumper by Juan Anderson to commence the second-half scoring for the Golden Eagles, Blue, who has scored 20 or more four times this season, pumped in 17 of the subsequent 24 Marquette points and, essentially, stifled the Bulls’ upset bid.
While the Golden Eagles celebrated victory for the eighth time over their past nine games, the Bulls, the present cellar dwellers of the Big East, meanwhile, have now dropped three straight and have only two wins under their belt since the onset of 2013.
Leading the charge for the Bulls was freshman guard Javontae Hawkins, who paced USF with 14 points, while junior forward Victor Rudd, the team’s leading scorer at 10.7 ppg entering Monday, chipped in 13.
Marquette, who trumped USF in points in the paint, 38-14, will get a chance to extending their winning streak atop the Al McGuire Court on Saturday, Feb. 9 when they play host to the DePaul Blue Demons.