Johnson’s 21 points lead Marquette past Vanderbilt 95-71
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Jajuan Johnson had 21 points, Luke Fischer scored 18 and Marquette spoiled Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew’s debut with a 95-71 victory in the opening game of the Veterans Classic at the Navy Academy on Friday night.
Haanif Cheatham added 15 points and Sam Hauser finished with 14 points for the Golden Eagles, who shot 39 of 74 (53 percent) from the field.
“I think one of the strengths of our team is our depth,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “We were able to play 11 guys in tonight’s game. I thought in the second half we were able to wear them down. That was terrific.”
A 3-pointer by Cheatham capped a 23-4 run and Marquette led 62-44 with10:56 remaining in the game. Vanderbilt struggled to make shots and a jumper by Matthew Fisher-Davis, who had 12 points, ended a more than five-minute scoring drought.
The Golden Eagles controlled the run of play the rest of the way. A steal and dunk by Johnson provided a 72-48 lead and set off a celebration on Marquette’s bench.
“I always play to the passing lanes and get to my spot on defense,” Johnson said.
Drew formerly coached at his alma mater Valparaiso, where he led the program to two NCAA tournaments in five years. However, his new team struggled against the Golden Eagles, who made 13 3-pointers.
“I thought the first half we did some nice things on the defensive end,” Drew said. “The second half they came out, hit the two quick 3s on us. We never seemed to get into a rhythm or much momentum after that.”
The Commodores got their only lead of the game, 40-39, on a baseline jumper by Noah Cressler with 25 seconds left in the half.
Luke Kornet led Vanderbilt with 15 points.
“What it always comes down to is being aggressive and making plays,” Kornet said. “I think, especially in the second half, we got away from that. We have to grow from this and get better.”
Vanderbilt: Kevin Stallings, who left to take the job at Pittsburgh, was the winningest coach in Commodores’ history. So, Drew will face some pressure to be competitive in his first season. The 7-foot-1 Kornet is already showing he can be a force at both ends of the court.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles must fill the void for the loss of Henry Ellenson, one of the program’s most highly touted recruits who left after one season for the NBA. Coach Steve Wojciechowski has deep, quick lineup that overwhelmed Vanderbilt.
Wojciechowski said he fully expected his team to carry a lead into the half. Instead they trailed by two points. The Golden Eagles simply turned up the pressure and went on a decisive run to put the game away. “They hit 3s and we kept them at the free-throw line,” Wojciechowski said. “Otherwise, I think we would have went into halftime winning.”
A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
The teams in the Veterans Classic not only get to play competitive basketball, the players also get a first-hand look at life at the Naval Academy campus and meet with the Midshipmen.
“This has been an amazing experience, more than anyone could have expected,” Marquette’s Luke Fischer said. “The hospitality has been phenomenal. The things we got to do and see is really something we can treasure for a long time.”
Vanderbilt: The Commodores face a tough test in their home opener Tuesday against cross-town rival Belmont, which is the preseason favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles play their home opener Monday against Howard, whose athleticism should provide a solid test.