Indianapolis — Markus Howard impressed Butler with his uncanny ability to make contested shots Wednesday night.
The high-scoring junior was more thrilled to see the way his teammates played defense.
While Howard delivered the scoring punch No. 10 Marquette needed in a rare 76-58 victory at Butler, the Golden Eagles scrambled around and shut down the Bulldogs’ shooters.
It’s been a long time coming.
“We got together in the summer and said if we want to do things we think we can, we’ve really got to lock in on the defensive end,” Howard said after scoring 32 points and grabbing five rebounds. “They have really great shooters and can all keep you on your toes. But I felt like we did a really good job. We were able to recover, get into our gaps.”
The result: Marquette (19-3, 8-1 Big East) won its eighth in a row, snapped a five-game skid in the series and won its first game at Hinkle Fieldhouse since the 1989-90 season.
Those numbers weren’t lost on Howard, one of the nation’s top scorers. And when things didn’t start well, he took over.
He shot 9 of 17 in the first half, matching Butler’s team field goal total, and wound up 14 of 23. And he wasn’t just the catalyst; he was the stopper on a night when teammate Sam Hauser finished with 19 points and five rebounds.
Howard’s first-half flurry staked Marquette to a 34-25 halftime lead. And when Butler used an 11-0 run midway through the second half to cut the deficit to eight, Howard answered two free throws and scored six points in the decisive 10-0 spurt that helped the Golden Eagles rebuild a 61-51 lead with 7:07 to go.
“Markus Howard right now is the best player in our league and he showed it,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “We challenged our players to make it tough and he made the tough ones.”
Butler never seriously challenged again on a brutally cold day that forced the cancellation of classes but not the game.
Kamar Baldwin led the Bulldogs with 16 points while Paul Jorgensen and Sean McDermott each scored 10. Butler (12-10, 3-6) lost its third in a row.
And Marquette knew exactly why – the defensive effort.
“We’re far from a perfect defensive team,” coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “But our guys know that we have to be committed at that end of the floor.”
No. 12 Virginia Tech 82, (at) Miami 70: Nickeil Alexander-Walker tied a season high with 25 points and added a highlight-reel assist as Virginia Tech shot 59 percent to beat Miami.
Justin Robinson scored 17 points for the Hokies but limped to the locker room midway through the second half. He watched the final seconds from the bench with his left foot in a boot. Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams declined to discuss the nature or severity of the injury.
Virginia Tech (17-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) closed within one game of the league lead, but now it might be without Robinson, who holds the school record for career assists and scored a career-high 35 points last week against Syracuse.
The Hurricanes (9-11, 1-7) lost their fourth in a row and are off to their worst start in conference play since 1993-94, when they went 0-18 in the Big East.
No. 14 Villanova 86, (at) DePaul 74: Eric Paschall scored 20 points, Phil Booth added 19 points and eight assists, and Villanova won its ninth straight game by beating DePaul.
Freshman forward Saddiq Bey matched a career high with 16 points and set one with 11 rebounds for Villanova. He shot 4 of 6 on 3-pointers.
The Wildcats (17-4, 8-0 Big East) hit 15 from beyond the arc after making 17 in a romp over Seton Hall on Sunday. The defending national champions beat DePaul (11-9, 3-6) for the 18th straight time.
Femi Olujobi led the Blue Demons with 20 points and eight rebounds. Eli Cain scored 17, but DePaul lost for the fourth time in five games despite shooting 53 percent.
While much of Chicago was shut down because of frigid conditions, with temperatures dropping to around minus-23, the game went on as scheduled.
No. 15 Louisville 82, (at) Wake Forest 54: Jordan Nwora scored 20 points and Louisville routed Wake Forest for its sixth straight victory.
Dwayne Sutton added 17 points and 10 rebounds, Malik Williams finished with 13 points and Ryan McMahon had 12 on four 3-pointers for the Cardinals (16-5, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). They shot 52 percent and led by 35 while staying even with No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Virginia and No. 9 North Carolina atop the ACC.
Brandon Childress scored 13 for the Demon Deacons (8-12, 1-7), who shot a season-worst 27 percent and missed 13 of their first 14 3-pointers. They have lost seven of eight and are off to their fourth 1-7 start to league play in five years under coach Danny Manning.
No. 19 LSU 72, (at) Texas A&M 57: Tremont Waters scored a season-high 36 points and made a career-best six 3-pointers to carry LSU past Texas A&M for its 10th straight victory.
Waters was hot early, making five of seven 3-point attempts and piling up 23 points by halftime. He cooled down a bit after the break, but did enough to lead LSU (17-3, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) to the victory on a night when much of the team struggled offensively.
The Tigers led by three early in the second half before using a 10-2 run to make it 51-40 with 15 minutes to go. Naz Reid took over during that stretch, scoring seven points with a dunk and a three-point play.
Texas A&M (8-11, 1-6) got 21 points from TJ Starks but lost for the fourth time in five games.
(At) No. 20 Iowa State 93, West Virginia 68: Lindell Wigginton scored a season-high 28 points off the bench and Iowa State cruised past West Virginia for its fourth win in five games.
Marial Shayok had 18 points for the surging Cyclones (16-5, 5-3 Big 12), who shot 26 of 40 inside the 3-point line and 29 of 32 from the free throw line. Nick Weiler-Babb had 14 points with six rebounds and four steals for Iowa State.
Lamont West led West Virginia (9-12, 1-7) with 24 points. Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins was ejected with 3:28 left for arguing with officials and had to be restrained by an assistant on his way back to the locker room.
(At) Minnesota 86, Illinois 75: Amir Coffey led a balanced Minnesota attack with 18 points and six assists. Jordan Murphy had 16 points and 10 rebounds as five players scored in double figures for the Gophers (16-5, 6-4 Big Ten), who overcame a slow start on a night when the temperature at game time was minus-19 Fahrenheit, with a forecast low of minus-30 overnight.
Freshman Gabe Kalscheur scored 14 and Isaiah Washington added 12 for Minnesota, while Daniel Oturu, who missed the Gophers’ victory over Iowa on Sunday with a shoulder injury, had 11 points and eight boards off the bench.
Trent Frazier led Illinois (6-15, 2-8) with 30 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range. Andres Feliz scored 11 and Tevian Jones added 10 for the Illini, who led by as many as five points early in the second half.
Minnesota surged ahead with a 13-1 run that included two Kalscheur 3-pointers. Illinois went almost five minutes without a field goal before Feliz hit a 3 to cut Minnesota’s lead to 55-51 with 12 minutes to play.
But the Gophers weren’t done. Coffey hit a 3-pointer to jumpstart a 12-0 run that he capped with a traditional 3-point play, giving Minnesota a 69-53 lead with just over eight minutes left.
The Illini earned their first Big Ten win of the season on Jan. 16 in a 95-68 blowout of the Gophers.
Minnesota took its first lead on Washington’s driving layup with eight minutes to play in the half, but the Illini immediately responded with a 7-2 run to go back up 28-25.
Murphy put Minnesota back on top with back-to-back dunks, but Frazier scored Illinois’ last eight points of the half, including a 3 at the buzzer to give the Illini a 39-37 lead.
(At) Rutgers 66, Indiana 58: Eugene Omoruyi had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Geo Baker had 16 points and five assists as Rutgers used a 22-0 run to come back. Ron Harper Jr. had a fast break dunk followed by a 3-pointer after back-to-back Indiana turnovers as Rutgers (11-9, 4-6 Big Ten) ended the first half on a 9-0 run, cutting Indiana’s lead to 29-28. The Scarlet Knights started the second half on a 11-0 run to give them their first lead of the game since 3-2.
Indiana (12-9, 3-7 Big Ten) scored with 3:48 left in the first half on Aljami Durham layup. The Hoosiers wouldn’t score again until Romeo Langford, who had a game-high 20 points, hit a 3-pointer with 14:29 to go to end Rutgers’ 22-0 run and make it 41-32.
Langford got Indiana within seven, scoring with 6:09 to go and again with 2:43 to play on a pair of free throws. A Juwan Morgan layup made it 58-53 with 2:00 minutes to go, but that’s the closest Indiana would get.