MILWAUKEE – Theo John let Butler pay the high price to focus on Markus Howard.
Howard scored 28 points and John added 15 points and tied his career record with 11 rebounds as the 11th Marquette Marquette deviated in the second half for a 79-69 win over Butler on Wednesday night.
"The teams have to spend a lot on our shooting, and the teams have to dedicate a lot to Markus Howard, in particular," said Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski. "Often the second Markus defender is the center of the opposing team. So when we took the ball out of the trap, Theo was open. To his credit, he was able to finish.
Marquette (22-4, 11-2 Big East) erased an eight-point deficit early in the second half with a 25-7 record.
Sean McDermott had 27 points and Kamar Baldwin 12 for Butler (15-12, 6-8).
With the No. 17 Villanova 85-73 defeat at Georgetown on Wednesday, the Golden Eagles moved into the Big East to lead a half-game to the Wildcats.
Big East scorer Howard made 9 shots out of 20, including 6 out of 13 over the arc.
"They have a lot of guys who can do them, and you have a lot of attention on Howard, which is difficult," said Butler coach, LaVall Jordan. "We performed well in the first half and less well in the second."
John, a 6-9-year-old striker known for his defense, made 6 shots on 7 and 3 free throws. John, the Big East's leading blocker, also had three blocks with his fourth double-double of the season.
"Most of the time, we have some elite scorers in our squad, so I do not have to talk about it," said John of his attack. "But if the game allows me, I'll try to contribute as much as I can."
Baldwin made two free throws to put Butler ahead of 44-43 with 12:45 remaining, but the Golden Eagles scored 11 points in a row, bringing the lead to 54-44 over John's rebound dunk.
Jordan Tucker ended Butler's drought, which lasted nearly 5 1/2 minutes with a 3 pointers. On subsequent ball possession, Howard fouled a 3 and converted the four-point game to 58-47 with a time remaining at 6:48.
Marquette was playing for the first time in eight days, but John said the layoff was not a slow start.
"I would say it was just concentration, a lack of concentration," he said. "We went out slowly enough and Butler came ready to play. They punched that mouth and we just came back and we gathered, and we responded. "
Marquette made 16 of 27 shots in the second for 59.3%, including 7 out of 11 at three points. The Golden Eagles, 20-14 in the first period, had a 21-11 advantage on the boards after the break.
Butler scored the first seven points of the second half to go 37-29, but Marquette responded with eight consecutive points, equaling 37 on John's layin.
Marquette trailed 26-18, but closed the half by 11-4.
"The second half, they made an adjustment or two, and countered," Jordan said. "Give them credit. And then, we had to adapt, but they had a rhythm in the second half that was not allowed them. "
Butler: The Bulldogs came off Wednesday in a six-team stalemate in the middle of the conference, a match behind St. John's and Seton Hall in the winning column, and a match in front of Georgetown, DePaul and Xavier.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles have five regular season games against teams that they have already beaten. But, with the exception of a 79-68 home win against Providence, each of the other four games was decided by four points or less.
Howard increased his points total to 1,772 career points, overtaking Dominic James (1,749) in fourth place in the Marquette Marker leaderboard. Howard, a 5-11 year old junior guard, is only one point behind George Thompson, who played from 1966 to 1969. Jerel McNeal is the Marquette career leader with 1,985 points.
Butler welcomes Providence on Tuesday.
Marquette is in Providence on Saturday