MILWAUKEE – Rutgers coach Mike Rice was very direct with his answer when he was asked the difference between his team and No. 10 Marquette.
"They have men, we have boys," he said Wednesday night after the Golden Eagles' 82-65 win over his Scarlet Knights. "We want to do what Marquette does, but we need to keep working on it."
Jae Crowder had 27 points and seven rebounds to lead Marquette.
Rutgers starts three freshmen and one sophomore and its inexperience showed as Marquette jumped to a 21-6 lead and then held off several runs by the Scarlet Knights.
Rice said he was very pleased with how his team responded by going on a 23-12 run to cut the lead to 33-29 toward the end of the first half.
"I really liked our response," Rice said. "You are going to get hit every once in a while and you have to respond. But then Marquette put their head down and made things happen."
Crowder's big game came after he was named Big East Player of the Week on Monday for his 29-point, 12-rebound effort in the Golden Eagles' win over Connecticut on Saturday. In the two games, he is 19 of 27 from the field for Marquette (23-5, 12-3).
"I'm just doing whatever it takes to win games at this time of the year," he said. "We want to have a lot of momentum going into the Big East tournament and then roll that into the NCAA tournament."
Crowder, who is being mentioned as a candidate for Big East Player of the Year, said he was happy to be an honorable mention all-conference pick in the preseason. But he also used that as motivation.
"I knew I was capable of more," he said. "It's been in the back of my head since we were in New York for the preseason meeting."
Buzz Williams said Crowder is playing as well as any player he's coached in his four years at as coach at Marquette.
"He's playing at a very high clip," he said. "His efficiency numbers are staggering. He's in a really good space emotionally, physically and mentally right now."
Darius Johnson-Odom added 21 points for Marquette.
The win was the fourth straight and 11th in 12 games for the Golden Eagles and it kept them tied for second place in the Big East with No. 20 Notre Dame, which beat West Virginia 71-44 on Wednesday. The top four teams earn a double-bye for the conference tournament.
Crowder said getting the double-bye was key to Marquette having a lot of success in the postseason.
"If you can get the double-bye, the chance of winning the tournament are much higher," he said. "Last year, we were on the other end of it and had to play right away. We want to change that this year."
Jerome Seagears had 14 points and Gilvydas Biruta added 12 for Rutgers (12-16, 4-11), which lost for the sixth straight time, including three in a row to ranked teams. The Scarlet Knights were routed by Notre Dame on Feb. 15, but held its own against No. 2 Syracuse before losing 74-64 on Sunday.
Biruta said the Scarlet Knights were still learning.
"We should learn from our mistakes, but we seem not to really get better," he said. "Hopefully this game will be like rock bottom for us."
For Seagears, losing to three straight highly ranked teams should pay off for Rutgers in the future.
"We get a lot of experience playing top 10 teams like this at a young age," he said. "After a while, hopefully we will get some 'W's.'"
Rutgers, which trailed nearly the entire game, trimmed the lead to 58-52 with 11:30 remaining when Dane Miller scored on an offensive rebound.
But Marquette responded with a 12-2 run to push the lead to 72-54 with 7:40 remaining when Johnson-Odom stole the ball and scored on a dunk. Crowder had six points during the run, including a nifty reverse layup.
Rutgers, which had 23 turnovers, could get no closer than 14 points the rest of the way. Marquette, which had 12 steals, scored 31 points off the turnovers.
Vander Blue added 10 points for Marquette.
The Golden Eagles, known for their slow starts, jumped out fast against Rutgers, hitting seven of their first eight shots, including three 3-pointers, and took a 21-6 lead when Todd Mayo scored on a driving layup with 14:51 remaining.
But Rutgers used a 23-12 run to trim the lead to 33-29 when Miller scored on a driving layup with 7:16 remaining.
Marquette ended the half on a 13-6 run for a 46-35 lead.
Johnson-Odom and Crowder combined for 32 points in the first half as Marquette forced 14 turnovers and scored 18 points off them.
Marquette forward Davante Gardner missed his sixth straight game with a sprained left knee.