Howard scores 45, lifts No. 20 Marquette past No. 14 Buffalo
By JIM HOEHN
MILWAUKEE (AP) After a sluggish first half, Markus Howard shot No. 14 Buffalo out of the unbeaten ranks.
Howard scored 40 of his 45 points in the second half as No. 20 Marquette pulled away to hand the Bulls their first loss of the season, 103-85 on Friday night.
"Just with how the first half went, it was a little frustrating for me," said Howard, who matched his season high. "Great credit to Buffalo and the two perimeter guards. They really made things difficult for me and I really had to work. I had to make adjustments and my teammates really did a great job of keeping me in the game."
Sam Hauser added 18 points for the Golden Eagles (10-2), who hit seven 3-pointers during a second-half surge that turned a 52-49 deficit into an 85-68 lead.
Howard missed his first six shots and was just 1 of 7 with one 3-pointer in the first half. He finished 12 of 25 from the field, including 9 of 13 from beyond the arc, and 12 of 12 of from the line as Marquette improved to 9-0 at home.
"We knew Markus in the second half was going to play better," Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. "Although at the start of the second half, he was still was not necessarily in the flow of things. We had a little talk and I knew he was going to play better. I didn't know it was going to be to the tune of 45 points. That was just a spectacular performance."
"We've a great run here in the beginning of the season," Buffalo coach Nate Oats said. "We didn't look like the 14th-ranked team in the country today, but we played a tough team, and Markus Howard went nuts."
Marquette, which trailed by as many as 10 in the first half, used a 16-3 run to open a 65-55 lead with 12:16 remaining. Hauser and Howard capped the run with back-to-back 3-pointers.
The Bulls pulled within 67-65 on a free throw by Nick Perkins, but the Golden Eagles ran the lead to 79-65 when Howard was fouled on a 3-pointer and added the free throw.
That triggered a run of 24 straight points by Howard as Marquette pushed the lead to 99-79.
"It was an absolutely incredible performance," Wojciechowski said. "I've been really fortunate to see some incredible performances. His second half was as good, I think, as I've seen in a half. He's obviously capable of doing that and he was sensational - against a really good defensive team."
The Bulls, coming off their first victory over Syracuse in 55 years, were hot early, opening a 19-10 lead on the strength of four 3-pointers.
Jayvon Graves' dunk put Buffalo up 27-23, but Joey Hauser, a 6-foot-9 freshman forward and Sam Hauser's younger brother, hit three consecutive 3-pointers - all of his first-half points - to give the Golden Eagles their first lead at 32-27.
Howard hit a pair of free throws with four seconds left to put Marquette up 39-38 at the break.
Buffalo hit 6 of its first 11 shots but went just 7 of 23 for the remainder of the half.
Marquette out-rebounded the Bulls 27-16 in the first half, including 16 offensive rebounds, en route to a 13-0 advantage in second-chance points.
Buffalo: The Bulls close out their nonconference schedule at Canisius, and then open Mid-American Conference play on Jan. 4 at Eastern Michigan.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles have one more nonconference game before opening Big East play at St. John's on Jan. 1.
Howard, who entered averaging a team-best 23.2 points per game, also scored 45 in an 83-71 victory over Kansas State on Dec. 1. His career high is 52, set last season against Providence. His 40 points in the second half was a career best. It was the 10th time in his career he has scored at least 30.
Despite road victories over West Virginia and Syracuse, Buffalo is likely to drop several spots in the AP Top 25. Marquette, with earlier home victories over Kansas State and Wisconsin when each was ranked 12th, should climb.
Buffalo is at Canisius on Dec. 29, the third of four consecutive road games.
Marquette hosts Southern on Dec. 28.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Updated December 22, 2018