MILWAUKEE – Seton Hall tried to take advantage of a Marquette team that was scrambling to adjust without one of its big men. The Pirates just couldn't keep up.
Facing a team that went with a smaller — and quicker — lineup without injured forward Davante Gardner, the Pirates controlled the first half but ultimately fell to the 15th-ranked Golden Eagles 66-59 on Tuesday night.
"Their going small really bothered us," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. "Even though you get it inside they were double-teaming. It's the transition side that kind of hurts us. So sometimes even you are big and they go small, it can hurt you and they do a great job of getting out on the break."
Herb Pope scored 16 points for the Pirates (15-7, 4-6 Big East), who have lost five straight.
"I think everyone is disappointed about this losing streak and no one is happy, but we understand this is part of a growing process and we'll keep coming out and fighting," Willard said.
The losing streak is wearing on guard Jordan Theodore, who scored seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.
"We wanted this game," Theodore said. "We just couldn't make plays down the stretch, especially me. I just couldn't get going at all tonight."
Jae Crowder had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Vander Blue scored 16 points and Darius Johnson-Odom added 14 for the Golden Eagles (19-4, 8-2), who extended their winning streak to seven games.
Trailing at halftime, Marquette turned to Blue and Johnson-Odom in a 16-2 run to take the lead midway through the second half.
The two NBA stars sat on the baseline near the Marquette bench and were cheered by the crowd when they were introduced on the video board in the first half.
Wade showed some excitement for his former team when Marquette woke up in the second half, pumping his fist a couple of times after Blue slammed home an alley-oop pass from Junior Cadougan to cut the Seton Hall lead to two.
Pope scored inside for Seton Hall, but Blue hit a 3-pointer. After an empty possession by the Pirates, Blue scored on a driving layup to put Marquette up 39-38 with 12:23 left.
Crowder scored for Marquette, then Cadougan came up with a steal and Johnson-Odom hit a 3-pointer to put the Golden Eagles up 44-38 with 11:07 to play.
The Golden Eagles stretched their lead to 56-46 when Johnson-Odom fired a long pass to Jamil Wilson for an easy layup with 4:56 left.
But the Pirates weren't finished, as Freddie Wilson hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 58-53 with 3:25 remaining.
Trailing by four and facing a critical possession with just over 2 minutes left, the Pirates lost the ball out of bounds as the shot clock expired. Crowder hit two free throws to help put the game out of reach.
Gardner sprained his left knee in the Golden Eagles' victory at Villanova on Saturday. The school said his return will be evaluated on a game-by-game basis.
The 6-foot-8, 290-pound Gardner is having an impressive season, and his inside play has been critical in the wake of a season-ending left knee injury to center Chris Otule.
Perhaps looking to take advantage of Gardner's absence — or simply shake things up in an attempt to end the losing streak — Willard shuffled his starting lineup. Willard turned to three players who typically come off the bench: sophomore Aaron Geramipoor, a 6-11 center, and freshman guards Haralds Karlis and Wilson.
Forward Fuquan Edwin, one of the team's top scorers, started the game on the bench but didn't stay there long. Edwin finished with 13 points.
Seton Hall controlled the first half, outscoring Marquette 22-14 in the paint as they took a 30-26 lead.