MILWAUKEE — Darius Johnson-Odom matched a season-high with 24 points and led No. 14 Marquette to an 81-77 victory over Villanova on Snday.
Reserve forward Davante Gardner had 13 points and a career-high 10 rebounds for the Golden Eagles (12-2, 1-0 Big East), who responded from their worst performance of the season, a 17-point drubbing by Vanderbilt on Thursday, with a solid start to the conference season.
Mouphtaou Yarou had 14 points for the Wildcats (7-7, 0-2) and JayVaughn Pinkston had a career-high 13.
The Wildcats, without a scholarship senior, are off to their worst start in coach Jay Wright’s 11 seasons and have lost seven of 10 after starting the season 4-0.
Marquette led 42-39 at halftime and opened the first 2-plus minutes of the second half on a 9-0 run. Jae Crowder scored seven points during the spurt.
Villanova cut it to 53-46 before Todd Mayo converted a three-point play and Johnson-Odom followed with a 3-pointer to put the Golden Eagles up by 15 points.
Villanova closed within five with two free throws by Darrun Hilliard and a 3-pointer by Achraf Yacoubou with 1:51 remaining. But the Wildcats could get no closer until a tip-in by Maurice Sutton with 6.7 seconds left.
Marquette’s Junior Cadougan made two free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining to seal it. The Golden Eagles missed 4 of 8 free throws over the final 37 seconds.
After starting 10-0, Marquette had lost two of three, and Johnson-Odom had struggled in the last two games, scoring 12 points against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Vanderbilt on 9-of-27 shooting. He scored18 points in the first half, as Marquette led by as many as 11 several times.
Johnson-Odom, who came in averaging 17.4 points, scored in a variety of ways in the first half, including three 3-pointers and a layup in traffic after getting his defender in the air with a shot fake on the wing. Johnson-Odom had a nice assist, driving the baseline, drawing the defense and kicking out to a wide-open Mayo for a 3.
Jamil Wilson replaced Gardner in Marquette’s starting lineup. Gardner, who had startd the last five games as a replacement for the injured Chris Otule, had just two points and two rebounds in 5 minutes in the loss to Vanderbilt.
Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek, Villanova’s starting guards, combined to score 18 points on 6-of-23 shooting, and both fouled out. Hilliard and Ty Johnson also fouled out.
Markus Kennedy had a collegiate-high 12 rebounds and equaled his season-high with eight points for Villanova, which was 3 of 17 on 3s.
The Wildcats opened Big East play with an 83-69 loss on Wednesday at West Virginia and have not looked like the team that has averaged more than 24 wins a season the past seven years and appeared in the NCAA tournament in each of them.