For a quarter Friday night, it appeared as if Marquette might be able to give the nation's third-ranked team a battle—something the Golden Eagles had yet to accomplish against the Blue Devils—with the visitors down just one at 3-2.
It was only a matter of time, though, before the goals came.
Behind an offensive onslaught sparked by a Justin Guterding sock trick and four more goals from freshman Joe Robertson, No. 3 Duke blew out Marquette 17-5 for a fourth straight victory, as the Blue Devils will be able to carry some momentum into next weekend's ACC tournament. Duke ripped off 11 straight goals in nearly a 24-minute span, helping to stretch its overall margin of victory against the Golden Eagles to 98-33 with wins in six all-time matchups.
Guterding added a pair of assists to go along with his six tallies, pushing him into sixth place on the NCAA career points list at 323, and the senior is just a dozen goals away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in Division I history.
"We just started hitting singles and reading their defense a little bit more," Guterding said of the second-half surge. "In the first half, we were getting our looks but we weren't hitting them. We just converted in the second half and we spaced better. The defense clamped down—[goalkeeper] Danny Fowler did excellent—we really held their offense down and I'm proud of the whole team."
Early on, Marquette took it to the Blue Devils, forcing a quick Duke turnover which ultimately set up the Golden Eagles for the game's first goal. But the Blue Devils needed just two and a half minutes to answer, with Guterding dishing to Joey Manown, and from there, Marquette never led again.
"You've got to tip your cap to Marquette," Duke head coach John Danowski said. "They did a nice job facing off, so it was even, but they were able to get possession of the ball. They did a great job off the ground, so if we made a mistake, the ball was going back their way.... We were delighted that the guys hung in there and learned a little bit about resilience and perseverance."
A minute into the second stanza, Guterding ended a six-minute scoring drought, scoring his second goal of the night before completing his first hat trick just two Blue Devil possessions later. Duke (12-2) ceded the final score of the first half to the visitors, giving the Blue Devils just a two-score advantage at intermission.
But after Guterding and the Golden Eagles' Bob Pelton traded goals within 30 seconds of one another early in the third quarter, the hosts put away Marquette (6-6) for good, notching 11 consecutive goals as the visitors went silent for almost a half-hour.
"It took me a while to get going," said Robertson, who scored three of his goals during the dominant run. "I didn't hit my shots at first—my placement was off, but then they started to fall and I got a little bit more comfortable. The offense moved the ball and I was wide open, so it's a credit to those guys.
Junior Brad Smith kicked things off with back-to-back tallies before Guterding netted his fifth of the night. Robertson then dropped in two straight scores before an absolute snipe by Guterding made it 12-4.
From there, Robertson added his 32nd of the season, and Duke then got lone tallies from Brian Smyth, Jake Seau, Peter Conley and Ryan Hastings—his first of the season—to stretch the lead to a baker's dozen at 17-4.
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Even with some early sloppiness, as the Blue Devils logged eight first-half turnovers—four of which were unforced—nothing could slow down the country's third-highest scoring offense.
"Guys were getting a little bit anxious," Danowski said. "They were just trying to force the ball into places they didn't need to instead of letting the game come to them, and that happens. It's Friday night, we just scored 18 goals last week, they think it's going to be easy and it's not."
In the rout, Duke got another stellar performance from Fowler in net, with the graduate student saving six of the 11 Golden Eagle shots on goal. Although Marquette racked up 35 shots on the night, the Blue Devil defense made things tough on its Big East opposition, leading to 13 turnovers and many empty possessions.
Now, with the main chunk of the regular season in the rearview mirror—Duke will play one final contest before the NCAA tournament when it hosts Boston University May 6—the Blue Devils can turn their attention to next weekend's conference tournament in Charlottesville, Va.
If Notre Dame knocks off North Carolina in Chapel Hill Saturday, Duke will take on the Fighting Irish in the semifinals. A Tar Heel win, however, could cause chaos with a three-way tie for the final two ACC tournament spots.
Regardless, the Blue Devils are eager for another shot at one of the teams they took down during their recent tear.
"Coach said that we're going to have to play a team that we've already beaten, and that's really hard to do," Guterding said. "We're excited to have the challenge."