South Florida-Marquette Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- Home has been where the wins are for Marquette, and the Golden Eagles have certainly parlayed that advantage into a run to the top of the Big East.
Back in the AP poll, the Golden Eagles seek a 21st consecutive home victory Monday night when they play South Florida with an opportunity to claim a share of the conference lead.
The No. 25 Golden Eagles (14-4, 5-1) improved to 11-0 at home this season with an 81-71 victory over Providence on Saturday. Junior Cadougan scored 15 points while Vander Blue, Trent Lockett and Davante Gardner each added 13 for Marquette, which outscored the Friars 44-24 in the paint and outrebounded them 35-27.
Blue shot 4 for 12 from the field, but coach Buzz Williams was more than pleased with the junior's defensive effort in hounding Big East leading scorer Bryce Cotton, who finished with 19 points but got off only nine shots.
"I thought it was Vander's best defensive effort," Williams said. "Vander's maturity as a human and as a player has really helped him be able to play the scouting report, be able to have a longer duration of concentration."
Blue's play has sparked Marquette to a 4-0 home mark in Big East play as it enters this contest one-half game behind No. 6 Syracuse for the Big East lead. The Golden Eagles' 20-game home winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest active Division I run.
Blue tops the team with 13.9 points per game, while Gardner - the squad's top reserve - is second at 13.2 despite averaging only 22 minutes.
Marquette's bench is contributing 31.7 points - good for third best in the country - and 18.4 rebounds a contest.
South Florida (10-9, 1-6) is last in the 15-team Big East and has dropped six of seven after a 73-65 home loss to then-No. 24 Notre Dame on Saturday. Zach LeDay scored a season-high 17 points off the bench for the Bulls, who led 35-28 at halftime but faltered in the final 20 minutes as the Irish shot 54.0 percent overall and amassed a 34-17 rebounding advantage.
"Once they got momentum going second half, we just couldn't get it back," South Florida coach Stan Heath said.
LeDay's offense was a surprise given the freshman averaged 3.1 points in his first 18 games. South Florida could use another such effort as it has scored 53.6 points while shooting 39.4 percent in Big East play.
Heath's team is scoring 61.7 points per game overall, lowest in the conference. South Florida has shot 30.5 percent in its two road losses to Top 25 teams this season and has dropped all four games to ranked opponents.
The Bulls are 2-34 against Top 25 squads on the road since the start of the 1996-97 season, but one of those victories came Feb. 29 at then-No. 19 Louisville.
Marquette has won the last three meetings with South Florida, the most recent a 67-47 home win Jan. 24, 2012, in which Gardner had 15 points and seven rebounds. The Golden Eagles have won 10 of the last 11 matchups and lead the all-time series 17-3.
Updated January 28, 2013