In its non-conference schedule, Marquette has played four teams with enough of a pulse to fog a mirror. Each time, Marquette has done just enough to lose. Tonight was no different, as Marquette put up a valiant fight against the Commodores of Vanderbilt (and Honorary Real Admiral Jim Burr). In the end, it wasn't enough, and YOUR Golden Eagles dropped a 77-76 gutpuncher in Nashville.
Vandy was all over Marquette to start the game, scoring on six (SIX!) dunks in the early-going to open an imposing 16-5 lead. But, just as they did against Duke and against Gonzaga and against Wisconsin, the Golden Eagles kept comin', attacking the rim relentlessly while taking advantage of some poor shooting by Vanderbilt and eventually securing a surprising 37-34 lead at the half.
The second half was a seesaw affair, with Marquette opening a seven-point advantage early, only to see Vandy roar back with a 19-4 run to take an eight-point lead ... only to see Marquette claw back into the game after three consecutive Vandy turnovers lead to three consecutive Marquette bunnies. Of course, Vandy responded again -- but just when the thing was threatening to come apart at the seams, Dwight Buycks stroked a three, and then Darius Johnson-Odom swished another, and THEN Jae Crowder hit two free throws after a terrific take to the tin, AND THEN DJO drew a push-off on the other end, AND THEN Buycks hit a long jumper with his foot on the three-point line ... and suddenly Marquette was up a point with 15 seconds left, and maybe there was still goodness in this world!
But no; all is darkness. All is despair. Crowder suffered an ill-timed and inexcusable brain fart on Vandy's final possession, abandoning his man to double team the Commodore point guard and leaving Chris Otule to fend off two men, which, inevitably, led to a Vanderbilt layup with four seconds remaining. After a flurry of timeouts, Crowder inbounded to DJO, who rushed up the court, looking to take advantage of a screen for a last-second jumper. But while working his way around the screen, DJO was plainly, unmistakably, and villainously (is that a word?) tripped by his defender, while Jim Burr watched, slack-jawed, ruddy-faced, and silent. No call (NO CALL!); DJO ends up flat on the floor; and Marquette loses its last chance to claim a scalp in the non-conference schedule.
The notes, then:
- I'm not sure who that was wearing the baby blue, #42 Marquette jersey, but hot damn if he didn't look like a semi-competent big man. Just when you're ready to write Chris Otule off as a guy who can only perform against cupcakes who don't feature a post player over 6'6", he puts up 12 points against a much more talented front line. (But I have to note: two rebounds in 20 minutes? Yeesh.)
- Jimmy Butler only attempted nine shots tonight. That is criminal. That needs to change. Like, now.
- If you were expecting Junior Cadougan to once and forever seize control of the point guard job following the surprising transfer of Reggie Smith, you came away grievously disappointed today. Junior got a mere ten minutes of run, missing his only shot, turning over the ball once, and failing to tally an assist, a rebound, or a point.
- On the other side of the coin, if, like me, you're a Dwight Buycks fan, you had a lot of things to be happy about. Thirteen points on six-of-nine shooting (1-2 from three), with four boards and four assists. He's still not a *true* point guard -- the four turnovers confirm that -- but I'd go to battle with Dwight.
- DJO did some nice things tonight, hitting two threes (and five shots total) while racking five assists, three boards, and 14 points ... but there was something missing. I felt like DJO could've grabbed that game by the throat and abused it. And at a couple points -- for instance, when he picked up a loose ball and threw down a right-handed jam -- I said: here he goes. He's gonna go off. But it didn't happen. I still think it's going to happen; I just hope it's sooner rather than later.
- Vander Blue was the fifth Golden Eagle in double digits tonight, scoring 10 in 22 minutes. In the first half, he had a couple of runners that made you scratch your head, but he learned from his mistakes almost immediately, taking better shots in the second half while picking up two steals and three assists. He might not have the basketball IQ of a Josh Gasser -- then again: who does? Gasser is the Stephen Hawking of college basketball, after all -- but he gets it.
The awards before I retire to chambers:
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game Award: JFB managed 15 points on only nine shots, hitting two triples and grabbing four boards in thirty-eight tough minutes. If he doesn't put up at least 15 shots against West Virginia on Saturday, I'm holding my breath until I pass out.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I don't have many rules in life, but I've always said: when you name an award after Joe Fulce, and Joe Fulce returns from a three-week absence after everyone assumed that his season (if not his college career) was done, you give the award to Joe Fulce. So, without further ado: JOE FULCE.
Erroneous! Call of the Game: I've already covered this, so I'll just say: Jim Burr is a national menace. Jim Burr must be stopped.
Up Next: The West Virginia Mountaineers took it in the pants from St. John's tonight, and I imagine that Huggy Bear is hotter than a wet hornet tonight. But we're starting early on Saturday for our Big East opener against WVU -- 10 a.m. CDT, kats and kittens -- so maybe he'll be too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to work himself into a good lather. I hope.