Howard on a roll as No. 10 Marquette host St. John's

On Jan. 1. Marquette visited St. Johns and nothing went right in a 20-point loss in Queens.

A little over a month later, the teams are trending in significantly different directions entering Tuesday's meeting in Milwaukee.

No. 10 Marquette (19-3, 8-1 Big East) was ranked 16th when Markus Howard was 2-of-15 and the Golden Eagles shot 41.9 percent in an 89-69 loss in the first meeting with the Red Storm.

Marquette has since won eight straight games and Howard has recovered from his awful showing at St. John's. Howard leads the Big East in scoring at 25 points per game and heads into Tuesday after being named the league's player of the week for the fifth time this season.

During the winning streak, Howard is averaging 26.9 points and his average undoubtedly would be higher if not for being limited to three minutes due to a back injury in a 74-71 win at Georgetown on Jan. 15. Since the Georgetown game, Howard is averaging 27.5 points on 45.7 percent (32-of-70) shooting.

Marquette will head into Tuesday's game with nearly a week off after Howard scored 32 points in last Wednesday's 76-58 win at Butler. It was Howard's sixth 30-point game this season and Marquette's fourth double-digit win in this run.

Marquette is on its longest winning streak since opening the 2008-09 season with nine straight wins in Big East games.

Besides Howard's ability to score at will at times, others are contributing to the run. Sam Hauser is averaging 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds this season, and at Butler he scored 19 points.

As effective as Howard and Hauser are playing during this run, so is the defense. Marquette's defense is holding opponents to 41.3 percent from the floor and 34.5 percent from 3-point range after holding Butler to 32.8 percent and 6-of-26 on 3-pointers last week.

"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."

Marquette also is being aided by solid depth. At Butler, the Golden Eagles were able to pull away while Howard and Sam Hauser were on the bench after getting their third foul and then they responded with 12 straight points after Butler cut into the double-digit lead.

"I think it was our experience," Howard said. "We've been in games like that where we've taken the teams' best punches and we're able to respond."

The win over Marquette and a double-overtime win at Georgetown on Jan. 5 vaulted St. John's (16-6, 4-5) into the Top 25 at No. 24 but it was a brief stay. St. John's immediately dropped out after losses to Villanova and DePaul and heads to Milwaukee with five losses in its last seven games.

St. John's will be hoping its trip to Marquette is similar to last Wednesday's visit to Creighton and nothing like Saturday's visit to No. 2 Duke.

At Creighton the Red Storm shot a season best 57.9 percent and Shamorie Ponds scored 26 points in an 83-67 win. Three days later, St. John's shot 33.8 percent and Ponds was held to 11 points in a 91-61 loss while its defense was unable to contain Zion Williamson.

The Red Storm hung around in the first half with Duke but faced a 20-point deficit before hitting a shot in the second half when they were outscored 44-24.

"I was proud of the first half," St. John's forward Marvin Clark II said. "We competed with them neck and neck, answered everything they had to say, but the live-ball turnovers got them going and got the crowd into it."

Marquette leads the all-time series 20-13 and has won the last four home meetings with St. John's. Howard was injured in the last home meeting on Feb. 21 but Sam Hauser scored 24 and Marquette held Ponds to 5-of-18 shooting in an 85-73 win.

"We got to bring it or we're going to get beat down," Ponds said. "We got no choice but to bring it."

--Field Level Media

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