No. 23 Marquette skidding into Big East tourney matchup

Once ranked in the Top 10 and sitting atop the conference standings, No. 23 Marquette enters Thursday's Big East tournament quarterfinal in New York against St. John's with a decidedly different vantage point.

Four consecutive losses to close the regular season left the second-seeded Golden Eagles looking up at top-seeded, No. 25 Villanova as Marquette begins tournament play at Madison Square Garden. Still, players say they aren't sulking or pointing fingers, instead choosing to look inward and reset their resolve.

"We're keeping our heads high," Golden Eagles freshman forward Brendan Bailey said. "We're talking positive. We're not pointing fingers at anybody. We're all still close teammates. We just need to come together even more and keep working."

The Golden Eagles have held second-half leads in each game during the losing streak, which includes single-digit defeats to Villanova (six points), Creighton (six), Seton Hall (nine) and Georgetown (two).

Most recently, Seton Hall erased a late, double-digit deficit by ending the game on an 18-0 run, stifling Marquette scoring leader Markus Howard along the way. The Pirates limited Howard to six points on 2-for-11 shooting, well below the junior guard's season average of 25.0 points a game.

Howard rebounded to score 28 points against Georgetown, but the Golden Eagles allowed Hoyas freshman guards James Akinjo and Mac McClung to combine for 48 points.

"We 1/8have 3/8 got to try to figure it out," Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said after the loss to the Hoyas. "Regardless, when your offense isn't going the way you want it to, you got to play defense. And I thought their freshman guards just had their way with us. Credit to them, they hit the tough shots; not all of them were easy. But you can't let a backcourt come in here and score 50."

Seventh-seeded St. John's defeated 10th-seeded DePaul 82-74 in a first-round game on Wednesday night to advance to the quarterfinals. Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon and Mustapha Heron scored 18 points apiece to lead five players in double figures as St. John's shot 46.3 percent from the floor and made 13-of-15 free throws.

The Red Storm (21-11) will try to improve to 3-0 against the Golden Eagles this season. St. John's earned a 20-point home victory against Marquette on Jan. 1 before edging the Golden Eagles 70-69 on Feb. 5 in Milwaukee.

"The game plan, we know what we have to do. It's just tough to do it because they're such a good team," Red Storm coach Chris Mullin told Fox Sports 1 after the DePaul game.

Mullin added that Marquette would have the advantage of rest entering the quarterfinals. The Golden Eagles are averaging 15.8 turnovers in the past four games while shooting 49-for-68 (72.1 percent) at the line, which falls below their season average of 76.4 percent.

Turnover struggles ultimately have paved the way for late foul trouble, prompting Wojciechowski to go deeper into his bench than usual.

"Foul trouble is part of the game," Wojciechowski said. "Whether it's hard or not, in order to win in March, you have to do hard things. So I have to prepare our team to do hard things."

--Field Level Media

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