MILWAUKEE -- Vander Blue is stepping up his game as No. 24 Marquette is fighting to stay on top of the Big East standings.
Blue scored 18 points for the Golden Eagles in an 89-78 victory over DePaul on Saturday, the Blue Demons' eighth straight loss.
With the win, Marquette (17-5, 8-2 Big East) moved one-half game ahead of No. 9 Syracuse for the lead in the conference. Syracuse plays at home Sunday against St. Johns.
It was the fourth straight game Blue led Marquette in scoring, including getting 30 points in a 63-50 win over South Florida on Jan. 28.
"I'm letting the game come to me," Blue said. "My teammates have a lot of faith in me. I'm one of the leaders. If we are going to get where we want to go this season, I need to be on my A game every single game."
Blue said the sky is the limit for Marquette, which was not expected to challenge for the Big East title this season.
"From top to bottom, we have everything we need," he said. "This year, the NCAA is going to be wide open. You're seeing all these number one teams lose. Teams don't want to play us in March."
Marquette coach Buzz Williams said his team is improving and has the potential to be very successful as the season moves into March. The only hiccup was a 70-51 loss to Louisville on Feb. 3.
"With each passing game, minus Louisville, we've continued to improve," he said. "We are trending in the right direction, but I know there is an avalanche coming at us in the next 25 days.
"In my time at Marquette, this will be the wildest finish across the country. There's so much volatility right now in college basketball."
Marquette must still play Syracuse, Notre Dame and Georgetown, all Top 25 teams.
DePaul fought back midway through the second half to cut the score 64-59 when Montray Clemens grabbed a rebound and scored with 9:40 remaining. But Marquette's Todd Mayo scored the next four points including a rebound and layin with 8:32 remaining to give Marquette a 68-59 lead.
Worrel Clahar scored eight of DePaul's next 10 points, including two long 3-pointers, to cut Marquette's lead to 77-73 with 4:43 remaining.
Marquette went inside to Gardner, who scored on a short jumper and was fouled. He hit the free throw to give Marquette an 80-73 lead with 4:28 remaining.
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said he was proud of his players' effort, but not the final score.
"In order to be proud of both, we all have to do a little more," he said. "Everyone has to look in the mirror and do a little more. It's that simple. We have to come back and prepare and fight."
Purnell said DePaul was hurt by Marquette's offensive rebounding. Of the 24 shots the Golden Eagles missed, he said they got the rebound on 12 of them.
"That really hurt us in the second half when we couldn't come up with the rebound," he said.
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