Spread the Sawdust! Marquette 59, South Florida 58

Those who tuned into Marquette's game against South Florida Wednesday night expecting to see an exhibition of basketball were sorely disappointed, as the Golden Eagles and Bulls instead took turns making sick all over the floor of the USF Sun Dome.  When the sawdust settled, Marquette escaped -- somehow -- with a take-it-and-get-the-hell-out-of-town victory, nipping the Bulls, 59-58.

How hideous was this game?  Let's count the ways:

  • Marquette continued to be the cure for what ails any poor offensive team, as USF took advantage of the Golden Eagles' porous defense to convert SIXTY-EIGHT (no typo) percent of its field goal attempts in the first half.  I'm still new to the numbers game, but I believe South Florida's eFG% in the first half was over 1000%.  Regardless, since we've run out of ways to say how bad Marquette's defense is, we'll just keep repeating it: Marquette's defense is bad.
  • After trimming the deficit to seven at intermission, Marquette came out flat in the second half and the Bulls took full advantage, surging to a 40-24 advantage with 18 minutes left in the contest.  After that, USF managed to put up a point a minute -- that's 18, for you non-math majors in the congregation -- for the rest of the game.  Blech.
  • With the cupboards bare, the defense busted, and Vander Blue continuing his troubling habit of blindly throwing his body into the lane like a WWF wrestler attempting a cross-body block, Marquette resorted to a desperation full-court press in the last sixteen minutes of the game.  Confirming everything our friends at Voodoo Five said about the Bulls, South Florida was completely and comically flummoxed, turning the ball over on (seemingly) every other possession and doing everything they could to hand the game over to Marquette.
  • After politely declining USF's southern hospitality for 32 minutes, the Golden Eagles finally said: "Fine.  If you REALLY don't want to win, I guess we'll oblige you."  Riding Jae Crowder's hot hand, Marquette feebly grabbed a four point lead with a minute to go in the game ...
  • ... And then things got real stoopid: with the game still very much in doubt, USF couldn't get a shot off on offense, but Marquette wasn't interested in salting away the game at the line.  From the 1:03 mark on, the Bulls missed all their field goal attempts and turned the ball over twice. For their part, in the game's last minute the Golden Eagles missed seven straight free throws: one by Chris Otule, two by Dwight Buycks, and four straight by Darius Johnson-Odom, who looked positively terrified to have to attempt those final throws.
  • And yet, after all that foolishness, the outcome seemed to be decided when DJO clanked yet another free throw with 1.8 seconds left ... except Buzz Williams, for reasons known only to him and his maker, ordered Jae Crowder to foul immediately in the event DJO missed the second throw, despite the fact that (1) South Florida had used all of its timeouts and (2) the ONLY thing South Florida does well is hit the offensive boards.  And so Jae grabbed Toarlyn Fitzpatrick when Fitz snared the rebound of the missed throw, giving South Florida one final chance with 1 second remaining in the game.
  • Fittingly, after swishing the first throw, Fitzpatrick attempted to miss the second -- only to bank it in. Crowder quickly inbounded the ball to Jimmy Butler, that was all she wrote, and the USF janitors could get to the business of bleaching the Sun Dome floor.
  • Jim Burr officiated the game.  For the first time in approximately 26 years, he was only the 18th ugliest thing involved in a game.

Is that enough notes?  Do you want a few more?  Here you go:

  • Jimmy Butler suffered a concussion on Saturday, apparently, and was held out of the starting lineup as a result.  He subbed in at the 16 minute mark of the first half and played all but two or three minutes of the rest of the game.  If someone can explain what, exactly, we accomplished by holding Jimmy out of the first four minutes of the game, I'd love to hear it.
  • Vander's forgettable Big East season continued its downward spiral tonight, as the Blue Man went 1-9 (NINE!) from the field and scored two points.  He grabbed three offensive boards and six rebounds total, so the night wasn't a total waste, but man: he looks completely overwhelmed right now, and if there was ever a time to get well, it was against South Florida.
  • While we're on the subject: when South Florida seized its 16-point lead early in the second half, Coach Buzz called a quick 30-second timeout and promptly designed a play for Blue, who, predictably (and sadly) barreled aimlessly into the lane and missed the shot badly.  This left me feeling like Harry Doyle in Major League 2, in the scene when Jake Taylor sends in Roger Dorn to pinch hit in the ALCS: "And they're drawing up a play for ... Vander Blue?  Blue hasn't made a shot since the DePaul game!"
  • Since the game stayed within eight points, I won a two-liter from the boys at Voodoo Five.  This is the best thing I can say about this game.

Briefly, the awards:

Jimmy Butler Player of the Game: For the first time, this award is going to an inanimate object: the game clock, for expiring and putting a merciful end to the carnage.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Our man is giving it all he can on one leg, and he can't really jump, and he's struggling to move, but STILL -- Joe Fulce loves his jumper, and every last one of Joe's 10 points tonight were critical.

Up Next: Having escaped from the Thunderdome, Marquette trudges to Washington, D.C. for a Lord's Day matchup against our Brothers and Sisters of the Faith from Georgetown, who've only won seven games in a row and just dispatched the Syracuse Orange in Canada.  No one said it would be easy, right?

Until then.

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