It's good to be home kids. I spent the past 6 days pursuing one of my many hobbies: attempting to do bodily harm to the woodland creatures of northern Wisconsin. So, unfortunately, I was unable to attend today's match-up with the Bucknell Bison. But through the magic of DVR, I was able to re-live all of today's action when I got home.
As you may have read, this was the second of two games this weekend. I didn't bother recording the Prairie View A&M game. But I allotted some space in my Time Warner Cable DVR (sponsor plug) for this one, because I knew this one would be a good early season test for Marquette. I didn't think it would be quite this kind of a test.
Just two days after hanging around against the dapper Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats, Bucknell came into Bradley Center and gave Marquette everything they wanted and then some. Taking advantage of excellent half court execution and some dead-eye 3 point shooting, the Bison got out to an eight point halftime lead. Marquette came out of the locker room looking like they still weren't sure this was really happening. At the 10:22 mark of the 2nd half, the Bucknell had extended the lead to 12 and everyone realized this really was happening. Luckily Marquette woke up before it was too late. Using a tenacious full court press, MU went on a 24-0 run from that point to pull this one out of the fire. File this one under W, for "Whew!"
A few quick thoughts:
- Same starting lineup as Friday night: Reggie Smith, Vander Blue, Chris Otule, Jimmy Butler and Erik Williams.
- I think we may be onto something with this Davante Gardner kid. Just in the scrimmage at Madness, you could tell that this kid had something that our previous "bigs" have lacked. He has good ball skills. He catches the ball when you throw it to him. He finishes. But what I really noticed today was that he doesn't just stand on the block with his hand up and hope someone sees him. Instead he is active under the hoop, creates space for himself and demands the ball. It's kind of exciting to see.
- Vander Blue is definitely as advertised, at least on the defensive end. He was incredibly active on the press, and in the second half was given the task of checking Bucknell's Bryson Johnson - who came out absolutely on fire from the 3-point arc. He also knocked down a clutch 3-pointer in the midst of that 24-0 run.
- If you're still hoping for some post presence out of Chris Otule, there is some hope for you. He had 4 points, on 2-3 shooting, in 11 early minutes. Both buckets came on the block, on decent moves. Bucknell's stable of step-away shooter bigs, combined with MU's need to press and Gardner's hot hand, probably kept Chris from getting more run.
- Dwight Buycks might be the key to our season. I know that sounds odd. If he plays like he did today, that will bode well.
- The free throw disparity was gargantuan today. Marquette shot 23-34 (67.6%), while Bucknell only went 6-11 (54.5%).
- While it was good to get this win, it is not all roses and sunshine after this one. Marquette's superior athleticism allowed them to press their way back into the game. And being at home seemed to help (even though it looked empty there), as you could definitely see the Bison's sphincters tightening as the game started slipping away from them. But the half-court defense left much to be desired. If Bucknell can do that to us in the half court, then I shudder to think what a team with better talent and similar execution might be able to do.
- My least favorite play of the game is the one where DJO drives the lane, into 4 defenders, leaves his feet to make a pass, and gets an offensive foul. He did that numerous times today, and subsequently spent the better part of the 2nd half on the bench with fouls.
I see it is your custom to pass out awards around here. Very well then. I'll play your game, you rogue.
Player of the Game: It would be hard not to give it to Gardner. But Buycks really did a lot too. So I guess I'm going to b*tch out and give the POTG to both Dwight Buycks and Davante Gardner. After being hobbled during the week with an ankle injury, and having a forgettable season opener, Buycks had the ball in his hands for nearly all of MU's 24-0 run. He assisted on several baskets and hit a big 3-pointer in that stretch. I hope this line - 17 points, 3 assists, 3 boards, 1 steal, 1 block, 6-6 FTs, 3-3 3pts - is a common occurrence for Dwight this season. A couple of those assists that he was dishing out were going to Gardner. The big fella was a force in the last 10 minutes. He scored 8 of his 11 points in that stretch, including the basket that gave MU the lead for good at 58-57. He did all of the things I mentioned above. My wife will attest, I was yelling at the TV "Give the big man the ball! Look at him working down there, throw it in there for the love of GOD!!!" And other things of that nature. Of the Golden Eagles' last 16 points, 13 were scored by either Buycks or Gardner.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I'm giving the nod to Junior Cadougan. Junior played 14 minutes, all in the second half, and didn't do a lot that showed up in the box score. But I thought he played good defense in the press, both on the ball and playing the passing lane. But his biggest contribution probably came when he stepped in and took a charge on 6'11" Mike Muscala, perhaps Bucknell's best player. The allegedly 6'1" Cadougan stood in and took it like a man, and that got Muscala his 4th foul and sent him to the bench. Minutes later the Marquette run got going, and by the time Muscala got back in the game it was too late.
Up next: Wednesday night at 8:00, the UW-Green Bay Phoenix and head coach Brian Wardle, make their return to Bradley Center. UWGB is coming off a beat down of Minnesota-Duluth. I don't know if Wardle's team will resemble those of his college coaches, but for the sake of watchability let's hope it's more Tom Crean and less Mike Deane.