Johnson-Odom becomes Marquette’s go-to guy
Johnson-Odom tied a career-high with 29 points and sparked a key second-half run to lead Marquette to a 73-65 win over Rutgers on Wednesday night.
In the Golden Eagles’ first two conference games, Johnson-Odom has scored 50 points after averaging nearly 14 in nonconference play. He shot 9 for 14, and 5 for 8 from 3-point range, against the Scarlet Knights.
“He seems to be raising up with a lot more confidence,” said Rutgers coach Mike Rice, a Marquette assistant in the mid-1990s.
Johnson-Odom concurred with Rice.
“I didn’t start off shooting the ball well at the beginning of our season but these last couple of games I’ve been shooting with a lot of confidence,” the junior guard said. “My teammates have helped me because they have a lot of confidence in me knocking those shots down.
“Defense helped me a lot. If I can just key on a player and lock in, that will help me out a lot on offense. Then I don’t worry about taking or making shots.”
That mindset came as a result of a Christmas night conversation Johnson-Odom had with coach Buzz Williams, who also credited the playmaking of Dwight Buycks and Junior Cadougan as a reason for the resurgence.
“I told him, ‘As much as we emphasize who their best perimeter player is, what do you think our opponents are saying about our best perimeter player? Because our best perimeter player is you,’” Williams said. “In order for him to become elite, he’s going to have to guard their Darius. I think he’s really taking that as a challenge. It’s changed his lens on how he sees the game.”
and it’s really helped our team.”
Jimmy Butler added 16 points and Jae Crowder had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Golden Eagles (11-4, 2-0 Big East), who defeated Rutgers (9-5, 0-2) for the fifth straight time and handed the Scarlet Knights their first loss in eight home games.
Rutgers got 24 points from James Beatty, while Gilvydas Biruta had 12 and Robert Lumpkins 10.
With Marquette holding a 46-42 lead, Rutgers had a chance to draw the closest it had been since 19-16, but missed three straight shots in the same sequence. Johnson-Odom then scored 10 points in a 16-10 run as the Golden Eagles opened a 62-52 advantage.
Rutgers drew within seven on four occasions but could never get closer despite Marquette missing six foul shots in the final 2 minutes.
“We have such a small margin of error, we have to tend to the details of the game,” Rice said. “We just have guys not as consistent as they need to be.”
Marquette, which entered the game seventh in the nation in field-goal percentage at 50.4 percent, improved on that mark by hitting 51.2 percent (22 for 43).
“Tonight was a big win for us,” Johnson-Odom said. “This is a road game. Road games are the toughest games to win, especially in the Big East. This is a real big step for us going into Pitt.”
In the first half, Marquette made 12 of 21 shots (57.1 percent) to go up 37-30 at intermission despite 11 turnovers.
“We were lucky to be up at the half,” Williams said. “Like most road games, I’m glad this one’s over.”