In case you were concerned that YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles might've been distracted by the sights and sounds of beautiful St. Thomas or flummoxed by playing in front of a crowd of 800 in a tiny Caribbean gym, those fears were put to rest early tonight: MU outgunned and outran Ole Miss from the opening bell, and when the Rum Domination was complete, Marquette breezed past the Rebels in a 96-66 throttling in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam.
This one got into Silly Season territory right quick, as Marquette was up by eleven points just five minutes into the game; by 20 halfway through the first half; and by 28 (at 40-12) with five minutes left in the first half. Ole Miss put together what qualified as a run to cut the deficit to 22 at intermission, but Marquette poured it on in the last 20 minutes, stretching the lead to 30 early in the second half and maintaining that advantage for the rest of the game.
Obviously, when you win by 30, there were mismatches all over the floor, but the biggest advantage Marquette had tonight was Jae Crowder. Ole Miss had no answer for the Absolut Weapon, as Jae dominated from inside and out (two-of-three from three-point land) en route to a 25-point, 7-rebound, 2-block performance. Crowder had plenty of help from his friends, of course -- 20 quiet points from Darius Johnson-Odom, 11 from Vander Blue, 15 from Davante Gardner -- but he was in a class by himself tonight.
Let's offer a few observations and hand out some hardware after the jump.
- Listen: I'm by no means a fashion maven, but it's gotten to the point that I have to say something about Coach Buzz's attire, because it appears to me that Coach Buzz is channeling Dr. Evil with the wardrobe this season. First, at Marquette Madness, we got the white jumpsuit that was straight outta the prison scene from Goldmember. Then, tonight, we got the canary yellow Tommy Bahama shirt buttoned all the way up, again evoking memories of Goldmember. What is happening here? Why hasn't anyone mentioned this to coach?
- I'm not saying that the Paradise Jam isn't a prestigious event -- despite the fact that the announcers called Junior Cadougan "COD-again" for most of the first half, and despite the fact that we lost the video feed in the second half for the last ten minutes of game action. (Somebody was eager to get to the bar to down that first mojito, methinks.) I'm just saying: it'll be nice to be in Maui next year, y'know?
- Remember on Saturday, when I wrote that Darius Johnson-Odom could be penciled in for 15-20 points per game? You can probably upgrade that pencil to permanent marker: DJO went 20-4-4 tonight, and I'll be damned if I wasn't surprised as heck to see that when I opened the box score. I figured he had ten or 12.
- The zebras were getting paid on a per-whistle basis tonight: if I remember correctly, Marquette was in the double bonus in the first half with 10 minutes left, and three Ole Miss players got DQ'd with five fouls while another three Rebels ended the night with four. MU was whistled for 24 fouls of its own on the night, but Ole Miss only managed 13 points at the charity stripe (13-21).
- As you'd probably expect from a team that starts three near-seven-footers, Mississippi brutalized Marquette on the glass tonight: while Ole Miss's advantage in overall rebounds was just three (38-35), the Rebs grabbed an astounding twenty-three (23!) offensive boards, which won't help MU's KenPom numbers in the morning.
- On the other hand: after limiting Ole Miss to 32% shooting from the floor and 13% (3-23) from three, Marquette's defensive eFG% number should see a healthy bump. Ole Miss's Jarvis Summers deserves special mention for boosting MU's profile on defense: the Rebel guard finished 1-11 from the floor and 0-5 from three, bless his VOLUME SHOOTING li'l heart.
Onto the awards:
Player of the Game: I really wish we had Jae Crowder for another year, but since we don't, I'm going to savor this 25 and 7 (on 9-11 from the floor and 5-7 from the line) performance. It was nearly as good as his coming out party against West Virginia on New Year's Day last season.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Vander Blue, as you probably know, had a sublime scoring game on Friday, using a variety of floaters, layups, and jumpers to put up a personal-best 26 on Winthrop. And yet: in terms of an all-around game, Vander might've been better tonight: he only managed 11 points (4-9 from the floor, 3-4 from the line) and a couple of boards and a couple of helpers, but he had four steals and was a pest on the defensive end all game. That's enough to earn the Fulce on this night.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: I wrote it at the time, and I'm going to stand by it now: Vander's steal and stuff at the 9:43 mark in the first half -- when he baited the lazy pass to the wing, and then pounced on the ball like a hungry kitty -- had visions of 2001-'02 Dwyane Wade dancing in my head. Tasty.
Up Next: It'll be deja vu all over again tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. when MU faces Norfolk State for the second time in a week. This time, though, it won't be in front of a three-quarters empty Bradley Center. Tomorrow, we play for all the cohibas -- it's the Paradise Jam Championship, and with any luck, there will be video for the whole thing.