In a conference as competitive as the Big East, timing sometimes is everything.
Surging eighth-ranked Marquette tries to extend its winning streak to 11 games on Saturday at the expense of reeling No. 25 Georgetown, which is trying to avoid its fifth straight loss and could be playing without leading scorer DaJuan Summers.
The Golden Eagles (18-2, 7-0) are tied with No. 7 Louisville atop the Big East, and are enjoying their longest winning streak since a 12-game run from Jan. 9-Feb. 19, 2002. Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Dominic James and Lazar Hayward accounted for all the offense in Monday’s 71-64 win at Notre Dame, sending the Irish to their fourth straight loss by closing out the game on a 12-5 burst.
“When we do a good job like we did tonight offensively and lock in on defense, we’re a hard team to beat no matter who we’re playing,” said McNeal, who scored 27 points, is third in the Big East at 19.4 per game and shooting 46.2 percent from 3-point range.
That defense has limited opponents to 65.4 points and forced 15.4 turnovers per game in those 10 victories. Offensively, the familiarity and cohesiveness of McNeal, Matthews (19.0 ppg) and James - all senior guards - along with Hayward (16.3), a junior forward, has helped Marquette lead the Big East in scoring at 81.0 points per game.
Hayward, who is 12th in the Big East in scoring, is one point shy of becoming the 41st player in school history to reach 1,000. Marquette would then join North Carolina as the only schools to have four 1,000-point scorers on its current roster.
James - contributing 11.6 points and 5.4 assists per game while compiling an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 3-to-1 - is tied with McNeal for the team lead with 37 steals.
The Hoyas (12-7, 3-5) stagger into Milwaukee to complete a three-game swing after a 65-57 loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday that dropped them into a tie for 10th in the 16-team Big East.
Chris Wright scored 15 points for Georgetown, which has struggled from the perimeter during its losing streak. The Hoyas are shooting 21.4 percent (15-for-70) from 3-point range during their skid, a sharp fall-off from their 32.3 percent season mark.
“After the game, we are all disappointed about the loss, but we’ve got to keep fighting,” said Wright, who is 1-for-10 from 3-point range during the slide. “That’s the only thing we can do. We can’t get mad or feel bad about ourselves now because we’ve got a lot of games left in the Big East.”
Wright may have to shoulder more of the offensive load if Summers, who is averaging a team-best 14.7 points and has a team-high 28 3-pointers, is unable to play. He strained a muscle in his left foot in the first half on Wednesday and while his status is uncertain, coach John Thompson III said Thursday “it doesn’t look good for him being able to go on Saturday.”
Greg Monroe may be able to exploit Marquette’s lack of size down low. The 6-foot-11 freshman center is averaging 13.1 points on 55.8 percent shooting and 6.5 rebounds.
Georgetown leads the all-time series 4-2 and has won the last three games. The Hoyas won 70-68 in overtime last season at Marquette, with Summers totaling six points and 14 rebounds.