Stranger Things Have Happened: Marquette 61, Wisconsin 54

I enjoy putting this look on Bo's face. - Christian Petersen

Marquette got sterling efforts from a pair of freshmen -- Todd Mayo on offense, Derrick Wilson on defense -- to steal a signature road win on Saturday, as the Golden Eagles defeated Wisconsin, 61-54.

If you hadn't seen the score of this afternoon's Marquette vs. Wisconsin game, and I told you:

  • YOUR Golden Eagles were without the services of point guard Junior Cadougan, who earned himself a seat on the bench due to the dreaded (and as of yet undisclosed) "violation of team rules."
  • Marquette had seven assists on the day.
  • Jae Crowder ended the day with twice as many fouls (4) as points (2) and was limited to 24 minutes by foul trouble.
  • In an item directly (and unsurprisingly) related to Item 3: Ed Hightower and Pat Driscoll officiated.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom and Todd Mayo needed 30 shots to put up 31 (combined) points.
  • MU finished the night with just three steals, and turned the ball over 13 times themselves.
  • Marquette hit two three-pointers on the day -- one by Vander Blue (!) and the other by Jamil Wilson (!!!!) -- as DJO, Todd and Jae went a combined 0-8 from distance.

... you'd probably figure Marquette was on the end of a 65-40 dumptruckin', right?

NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND.

With freshman -- and emergency starter -- Derrick Wilson leading a tenacious effort on the defensive end of the floor, Marquette limited Wisconsin to 0.84 points per possession, 32% shooting from the field, and an eFG% of 37% for the game. MU also bludgeoned the Badgers on the boards, taking a 44-32 overall advantage on the glass and grabbing 17 offensive rebounds to UW's 9, and when all was said and done, YOUR Golden Eagles had a signature road win over a top-ten squad, 61-54.

Both teams came out of the gates a little sluggish, which was probably to be expected with MU missing its floor general and Wisconsin three days removed from a 12-round heavyweight battle with North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Marquette was the first team to shake the cobwebs, though, going on an 18-8 run to end the first half with a 32-22 advantage. MU's wings used their advantage in speed and quickness to fuel that run, as Blue and Mayo routinely beat their man off the dribble and attacked the rim relentlessly at the end of the first half.

Marquette's lead grew to 13 in the earlygoing in the second half, but the Badgers -- as you'd expect -- weren't about to go quietly. Even with Jordan Taylor hampered with foul trouble, UW quickly sliced MU's advantage to single digits and, with 10 minutes and change remaining, the margin was only one at 41-40. But Marquette never gave up the lead, as DJO and/or Mayo had an answer for every Badger run: between DJO's jumpers, The Spread's floaters, and a few big free throws in the final minute, Marquette held Bucky at bay and is now responsible for 16.666666667% of Wisconsin's home losses during the Bo Ryan era.

A few more notes and the awards, after the jump.

  • There was some trepidation expressed before the game that Vander Blue, coming back to his hometown after all the nonsense revolving around his recruiting, might try to force the issue today. That certainly wasn't the case, as Van had an impressive all-around game with nine points, eight boards, a block, and some solid D all day long. Sure, his shooting numbers weren't great -- 4-of-14 from the floor -- but he had a handful of iron-unkind no-footers and got to the basket whenever he wanted. Maybe -- just maybe -- Van had his Neo-esque "HE'S STARTING TO BELIEVE!" moment against Jacksonville. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
  • Hey, Juan Anderson! Seven minutes, five boards, and a nifty up-and-under layup for his only points of the game? Yeah, that'll do. That'll do just fine.
  • It was a mixed bag from the big men today: Chris Otule managed only two boards in 25 minutes and was just 1-4 from the line, but Davante Gardner picked up the slack with eight points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench. Jamil Wilson also showed some flashes: he showed impressive range on his three-pointer, grabbed three boards, and sank the free throws that salted away the game in the final 30 seconds. He also shook off what looked like a jammed/dislocated/bad owie finger late in the first half.
  • I dig Todd Mayo, you guys. And I really wasn't expecting to before the season. So that's kinda neat.
  • Jae Crowder only attempted four field goals today (he made one) and was held to three rebounds, but he was everywhere on the defensive end of the floor: he picked up the ticky-tackiest of all ticky-tack fouls immediately (the people paid to see Pat Driscoll, after all), but even with the foul trouble, he was altering shots and providing help defense at every turn.

The awards? Don't mind if I do:

Jimmy Butler Player of the Game Award: I'm very, very tempted to give this one to Vander, because he had every reason in the world to play too fast and too loose today, and he didn't. But holy jeez, people: Todd Mayo. From the twin three-point plays that got Marquette off the mat in the first half to the floater high off the glass that ended Wisconsin's last real run to the two-handed stuff that put an exclamation point on the victory, The Spread can't be overlooked tonight: 24 minutes, 14 points, 5 rebounds, only one turnover. And, perhaps most importantly of all, he made Brewtown Andy look downright prophetic.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I can't think of a more difficult situation than the one that faced Derrick Wilson today: handed the keys to the car just before game time, tasked with running the offense and, ohbytheway, try to slow down the All-American point guard on the other side, would you? But D-Wil was up to the challenge, playing 20 crucial minutes and serving as a key member of the crew that harassed Jordan Taylor into a 4-10, 13-point, two-assist, five-turnover performance. He didn't score a point, he didn't have any assists, but Wilson earns this award, if for no other reason, than the bagel next to his name in the turnover column.

Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: Marquette clinging to a 51-48 lead, 1:45 left, and The Spread goes high -- and I mean: three inches from the top of the backboard high -- off the glass with a gorgeous floater that restores MU's lead to five and all-but drives the stake through Bucky's heart.

Up Next: A couple days to recover, then it's off to New York for a date with the Washington Huskies in the Jimmy V Classic. But we enjoy this one until then, agreed?

Ring out ahoya.

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