Forty good minutes. Two good halves. A solid performance on both ends of the floor. One complete game.
That's what Marquette fans, coaches, and players have been looking for over the past few weeks. Frustrated by inconsistency, lost leads, slow starts and simple lapses in the last several games, people have been waiting for the game when the Golden Eagles would put it all together. Well kids, it is with great pleasure that I am here to say that Tuesday's game against the South Florida Bulls was that game.
Marquette came out looking to establish the big man right away. They fed the ball to Davante Gardner on each of their first few trips down the floor, and Big Smooth delivered by scoring the Golden Eagles' first 6 points of the game. But despite Davante's efforts, South Florida was able to hit just enough jumpers to hang around in the early going.
With 4 minutes to play in the half it was an 18-15 game, and it appeared that USF was going to extend their streak of 16 straight games of holding their opponent under 30 points in the first half. But a 3-pointer by Darius Johnson-Odom sparked a late surge that would put Marquette in the driver seat. A Jamil Wilson 3-pointer, a pair of Todd Mayo free throws, and a tip dunk by Wilson as the horn sounded gave MU a 7-0 spurt over the last minute of the half and a 33-21 lead.
The momentum of that little run, and the baskets that preceded it, carried over into the second half. In the first 1:30 of the half, Jae Crowder hit a deuce, Davante made a free throw, and DJO drained a triple to extend the Marquette advantage to 39-22 and prompt Stan Heath to call a timeout to try and stop the bleeding. But Stan's talk did little to turn the tide. Missed shots and turnovers by USF led to run-outs and baskets for Marquette. The Bulls would never draw closer than 15 the rest of the way, the Blue and Gold cruised to victory 67-47.
Bullet points and awards after the jump
A few more thoughts from your boy Mr. K:
- It was kind of hard to believe that this game was for a share of 2nd place in the Big East and South Florida was one of the participants. But this USF team has been different than those of recent vintage. And I will admit, I felt a slight twinge of concern about this being a possible let down game. Luckily, tonight someone reminded them that they're South Florida and they struggled up here in the great white north.
- In my opinion the defense tonight was damn good. The offense only shot a little over 39% from the floor, but the defense produced so many chances that the low shooting percentage did not become a factor. South Florida's leading scorer, Jawanza Poland, scored just 2 points on 0-6 shooting. Leading assist man, Anthony Collins (5.1apg), dished out just 3 helpers while turning the ball over 4 times.
- Speaking of turnovers - Marquette forced 20 USF turnovers, while handing out just 5(!) of their own, by FAR the lowest turnover total of the entire season. And in reality it was only 4 turnovers. The 5th came when Victor Rudd stole the ball from Todd Mayo, with 6 seconds to play in the game and Todd was just dribbling the clock out. Rudd then tried to take it the other way to lay it in, but was fouled by Vander Blue who attempted to block the shot.
- Another successful byproduct of feeding Ox the ball early is that created foul issues for the Bulls' front court. Starting center Gus Gilchrist picked up 2 fouls in the first half, and sat for the final 6 minutes. He then picked up his 3rd about 1 minute into the second half, and returned to the bench. He finished with just 5 points and 5 turnovers.
- 15 assists on 23 made baskets... that's ball movement, young players.
Who wants to get awarded?
Player of the Game: With Jimmy himself in attendance, there were several worthy performances turned in tonight. DJO led the team with 17 points and made 3 triples, while playing excellent defense on Jawanza Poland. Jae Crowder scored 15 points, grabbed 4 boards and got an impressive 6 steals. Davante also scored 15 points and led the team with 7 rebounds. You could pick any of those guys and not be wrong. But I'm giving the nod to Davante Gardner, because he was the guy that the Bulls were talking about after the game. They were ready for DJO, ready for Jae, but they didn't think the big fella could do 'em like he did. They were wrong.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Today's Fulce goes to Jamail Jones. The only evidence of Jamail's impact on this game that you'll see in the box score is his name... and that's the only part that matters. Jamail logged just 2 minutes, and missed his only shot attempt - a 3 from the left corner. But the fact that he was in, means that this game was a blowout. And a blowout was just what we needed.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: With 9 seconds left in the half, Juan Anderson disrupted what would've been an alley-oop dunk for Poland on one end of the floor. The ball came to DJO who raced it up the floor and missed a lay-up. But Jamil Wilson was running right with him and was able to clean up the miss for a put-back dunk. MU went to the locker room up 12, and with the entire crowd up on their feet. So instead of USF ending the half with an exclamation point, it was Marquette doing the punctuating. The result was a momentum steam roller that came out of the locker room and never slowed down.
Up Next: Marquette travels to the City of Brotherly Love to renew acquaintances with the Villanova Wildcats. You may recall that MU beat Villanova just 3 weeks ago in their Big East opener. The Wildcats will be looking for a little revenge when that game tips Saturday, at 11:00am CST. Be sure to set your alarm, so you don't oversleep! We'll see you for the game thread and, hopefully, for another happy recap to follow.