It has been a long and often times frustrating year for your Marquette Golden Eagles. Despite the tough home losses to St. John's and Cincinnati and a non-conference resume bereft of quality wins, Marquette snuck into the 2011 NCAA tournament as an 11 seed. Awaiting Marquette was a Xavier team that steamrolled through the Atlantic 10 with a 15-1 record and sported a 3 year run of Sweet 16 appearances. Most signs pointed to a tough match-up with the Musketeers.
In response, Marquette put together their most complete game of the year en route to a surprisingly easy 66-55 victory. Marquette led the entire game and built a 13 point halftime lead. After the break MU held off a couple of Xavier runs, never letting the Muskies closer than 8 points. In summation: enjoy the win, drink bourbon and see you on Sunday!
The #winning started on the defensive side of the ball. Much was made of Tu Holloway's 20 ppg average, but he hadn't seen the likes of Jimmy F. Butler in the A-10. Jimmy was in his shorts all night long and harassed Holloway into 1-8 shooting and a stellar 1:1 points-to-turnover ratio.
Lest we heap all the defensive praise on Jimmy, the rest of the team pitched in with great rotations to prevent open three point attempts. MU also drew two huge first half charges on X's #2 guy Mark Lyons, putting him on the bench with 3 fouls. Lyons finished with only 6 points on 3-9 shooting. Xavier shot 41.2% from the field including a meager 15.4% from 3 point land.
Offensively, Marquette put the ball in the cup with regularity when they held onto the ball. MU shot 53.3% and was led by Darius Johnson-Odom's 19 points. DJO was a smooth 4-6 from 3. Jimmy F. Butler was also a stud when MU held possession. His 15 points were big, but none were bigger than his turnaround jumper to stem a 7-0 Xavier run mid-way through the 2nd half. Erik Williams got the start once again and chipped in with 5 points, with a bucket in the first minute of both halves. If it wasn't for 15 turnovers, Marquette would have won in an absolute laugher.
Awards and whimsy after the jump!
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game: As if there was a question on this one. Jimmy Butler takes home his namesake award yet again. Not only did he hold Tu Holloway 15 points below his average, but Jimmy chipped in with a magnificent offensive game. He was 5-8 from the field and 5-6 from the line to tally 15 huge points.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: E-Will almost earns the nod here by providing early sparks in each half. Ultimately, I have to give it to Jae Crowder. Jae had 10 & 6 on 4-6 shooting in 29 minutes.
Up Next: Marquette lives to fight another day and will take on the Nanooks of the North, the Syracuse Orange in the
second third round of the NCAA tournament in Cleveland on Sunday. Game time is 6:40. National Marquette Day Redux!