Remember when the Al McGuire Center opened a little more than five years ago, and Marquette stopped practicing in the Old Gym and took residence in the shiny new digs -- only Smarmy Tom Crean thought they were getting too fat and lazy and comfortable, so he yanked the rug out from under the team and sent 'em back to the Old Gym for a few practices to send a message?
If it was up to me -- and it's probably a good thing that it's not -- this current Marquette team would be practicing at the Old Gym for the rest of the year.
No more talk about the positives of dropping two games to top-caliber competition in the CBE Classic for a while, if you please. When you scrape by an outgunned and outmanned UW-Milwaukee team, 75-72, in front of an assembly of dozens at the U.S. Cellular Arena, it's clear that you've got miles and miles and miles to go before anybody should feel good about you.
Enough generalities; let's talk specifics. The 38th clash of Marquette and UW-Milwaukee got off to a roaring start for the "visitors," as the heinous villain who's been impersonating Darius Johnson-Odom finally took a hike and The Real DJO stood up. After a handful of forgettable performances, DJO scorched the nets for 13 points in the first ten minutes and Marquette roared out to a 27-11 lead. From there, though, the frustrating lapses in concentration and execution that have vexed Marquette in the early days of the 2010-'11 season showed up again, and UW-Milwaukee clawed to within single digits on a couple of occasions in the first half, until Johnson-Odom restored order with his fifth three-pointer of the half and a pretty feed to Jae Crowder to put the Golden Eagles up 12 at the half.
From there, the same pattern of fits and starts and blunders and farts repeated itself: Marquette quickly went up 18 in the second half, only to allow the Panthers to cut the deficit to single digits, only to (seemingly) take control of the game once and for all when DJO found Crowder for another bunny and an eleven-point Marquette advantage with three minutes and change remaining. But Marquette went vegetative again, failing to score for the next three minutes while getting careless with the rock, and UW-Milwaukee somehow managed to pull within two points with 30 seconds to go. Mercifully, Jimmy Butler did Jimmy Butler things and knocked down four cold-blooded throws in the waning seconds of the game, sending the visitors home happy. Or slightly less pissed. (Slightly.)
Some quick notes:
- Games like this one are the reason we got so frustrated with Johnson-Odom in the first six games of the year. The young man was put on this earth to score buckets, and, when he's going good, the only person who can slow him down is him. And Coach Buzz, if the offense strays away from DJO (as it did for a stretch of the second half tonight).
- Jimmy did what Jimmy do tonight. It was a quiet night for Butler, but with his team coming apart at the seams in the late going, Jimmy said: "Enough of this ****," called for the ball, drove the lane, got fouled, and sank both throws. The box score says he scored 13, and, if that's true, it was the quietest thirteen I've seen in a while.
- I have nothing good to say about Chris Otule, so I will say nothing at all.
- Jae Crowder: you wear No. 32, like Lazar Hayward did. I saw 'Zar play for four years. You're not to 'Zar's level yet, so we can probably cool it with the three-point attempts with two-and-a-half minutes left. Yes, I know, you were wide open, and you're a very capable shooter, but still: that's not the shot we need in that situation. 'Zar could get away with that because -- well, because he made more of 'em than he missed and he'd earned the right to take that shot. You'll get there, but you're not there yet.
- Dwight Buycks was a mixed bag -- seven points, five boards, six assists (nice), five steals (very nice), but three turnovers and a handful of headscratchers, including a 35-foot heave with about two minutes left and UW-Milwaukee threatening to steal the game. The offense just doesn't seem to flow when Buycks is in the game -- there's a lot of dribbling, a lot of pointing, and a lot of screens that aren't used. Which is why it was nice to see...
Junior Cadougan get a start and about thirty minutes of run tonight. There was good ball movement and tons of great looks for DJO in the first ten minutes of the game, and I think those things were due, in large part, to Junior's presence on the court. He's still got a ways to go defensively, and he'll never be on par with Vander Blue (who was getting subbed in for Junior on defense in the last thirty seconds of the game), but I think he'll eventually be OK on that end.
It's late, and I've written enough. Awards, quickly, please:
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game: I heard on the post-game show that Jim McIlvaine gave the POTG award to Jimmy, which is downright confounding given the aerial assault put on by Johnson-Odom. So, for our part, the nod goes to DJO, who was simply magnificent tonight: ten-of-fourteen from the field, five-of-seven from three, four-of-four from the line, with three rebounds and three assists. If a team is going to play man-to-man defense (as UW-Milwaukee did for all but a brief stretch in the first half), DJO can (and must) make you pay.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: This one's tricky, since Reggie Smith and Jamail Jones didn't get into the game at all, Davante Gardner was out with a bum shoulder, and Erik Williams only played six minutes. It's a close call between Vander and Crowder, but we'll go with Jae, who grabbed a team-high six rebounds and played good defense, for the most part, on UW-Milwaukee's Anthony Hill.
ERRONEOUS! Call of the Game: If you stopped by the game thread, you noticed that we had our first HIGGINS-ing of the new season, as the Round Mound of Mediocrity that is Tim Higgins called his first Marquette game of the year. All told, thing weren't that awful -- sure, there were a couple dunderheaded charging calls, but that's to be expected with a Higgins-led crew, and, honestly, most of the bad calls went in Marquette's favor. That said, there were a few times that UW-Milwaukee's Ja'Rob McCallum was dancing like Barry Sanders behind a patchwork Detroit Lions offensive line -- without dribbling, of course. Coming on the heels of the anything goes walk-fest with Dook, however, it wasn't too bad.
Up next: Your weary Golden Eagles take a week off before taking to the hardwood against Longwood next Saturday at 1:00 p.m. There will be double entendres a plenty, I'm sure, so you'll want to join in for a rollicking good time.
Until then, enjoy Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.