Junior Cadougan kept Marquette's Big East and NCAA tourney dreams alive. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Be gone from me bubble talk! With tonight's win over yet another team in the RPI 25, we can finally feel safe in saying that YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles will be heading to this year's NCAA Tournament. It's been a rollercoaster, but we're flying high tonight! It's late, and that game took a lot out of us all, but let's break it down real quick like.
- West Virginia couldn't miss in the first half. They shot a silly 7-11 from 3-point land, and 58% overall. Marquette hung tough for the first 15 minutes of the half - leading by as much as 6. But WVU closed the half on a 14-1 run, and it looked like the second half woes had arrived ahead of schedule.
- The second half started much the way the first had ended. West Virginia came out draining triples and playing tough defense. They even dusted off the John Beilein 1-3-1 zone, which had MU baffled.
- The Marquette second half charge was led by their bench: Junior Cadougan and Davante Gardner to be exact. From the 16 minute mark until the 10 minute mark, MU got 18 straight points from bench players. And when Junior made a perfect pass to Davante for the bucket and one, the West Virginia lead - once as large as 10 - had evaporated.
- The incredible disappearing/reappearing Darius Johnson-Odom put on a heck of a show for the fans again tonight. He made a lay-up with 5:24 to play in the first half, to put Marquette up 28-22. He then vanished and didn't make another field goal until 4:51 left in the second half. But when he finally re-emerged, he was large. He drilled a triple from the corner to give MU a 58-55 lead. Then, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, he hit another one on the next trip down the floor. 61-55 and Marquette never looked back.
- Our boy Joe Fulce was held out of most of the game, but did make his first appearance in the Big East Tournament midway through the 2nd half. He played 2 minutes, committed 2 fouls, grabbed 2 boards and hit one of two 3-pointers. He got his money's worth on those 2 minutes. It'll be interesting to see what his availability is tomorrow.
- The much maligned Marquette defense came up HUGE in the second half. They mixed in a little pressure, and did a much better job challenging shots. The result was WVU shooting just 6-27 from the field in the second half, after hitting 14-24 in the first. The Mountaineers went an amazing 9+ minutes without a basket, as Marquette wrested control of the game away.
- West Virginia also turned the ball over 12 times - 7 in the 2nd half. The usually sure-handed, 11th year senior Joe Mazulla was responsible for coughing it up 6 times alone.
- Jimmy Butler was quiet in this one. He ended with just 9 points and 2 rebounds, but played great defense. In case there was any question, JFB is still the man and I'll have words with anyone who says otherwise.
- You'll notice tonight's recap is asterisk free. That's because there is no salt grain needed to enjoy this win. This is a very good win, over a very good team, in a very big spot.
Let's put a bow on this baby after the jump. It's getting late and we need our rest. WE GOT A GAME TOMORROW!
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game: The difference maker tonight was Junior Cadougan. He did everything that we got excited about in the win over Providence, except it wasn't against Providence defense. He played aggressive and confident. He attacked the rim, found open teammates, and turned the tide in Marquette's favor. He was so good that you could tell instantly when he came off the floor (which wasn't much in the second half). He finished with a career-high 15 points and 5 assists, while shooting 4-7 from the floor and 7-9 from the line (nice!).
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I don't know if he's "undersung" or not, but Davante Gardner deserves some love tonight. The big fella did his thing, and was the benefactor of a number of those Cadougan assists. In 16 minutes Gardner scored 10 points on a perfect night shooting the ball - 4-4 from the field, 2-2 from the line.
Up Next: The Big East Tournament rolls on. Someone has to be the first team to win 5 games in 5 days and take home the title. I nominate the 2010-11 Marquette Golden Eagles. The next hurdle is a rematch of the game that shall not be mentioned, against the #3 seed Louisville Cardinals. I don't know about you guys, but I'm kind of digging this 8:00 CST timeslot. I say we do it three more times. See you tomorrow night.