There are two -- and, usually, only two -- goals in any non-conference cupcake game in college basketball: first, and most importantly, make sure nobody gets hurt. Second, get everybody some run.
On the heels of the shambolic non-event that was the Carrier Classic, though, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles had a third goal in yesterday's official season opener against the Colgate Raiders: shake off the rust accumulated from the last four weeks and work out the nervous energy that couldn't be released in South Carolina.
As you'd expect, there were some hiccups along the way -- the most serious of which came in the first half, when sophomore forward Juan Anderson slumped off the court favoring his troublesome, surgically-repaired right shoulder -- but ultimately Marquette accomplished everything it needed to in yesterday's 84-63 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center: every scholarship player got on the court for extended action (freshman wing Jamal Ferguson was the only guy not to get double-digit minutes), nobody got dinged (at least, not too seriously), and MU began the process of finding its identity in the Post-DJaeO Era.
It wasn't a magnificent performance, to be sure: there was a lot to like from cats like Jamil Wilson (4-7 from the field, 2-2 on threes, for a team-leading 15 points) and Davante Gardner (who Big Smoove'd his way to 14 points, with his customary four offensive rebounds, in just 16 minutes of action) and Trent Lockett, who made his value immediately apparent with a stat-stuffer line of 7 points, 7 rebounds (three on offense), 5 steals, and 3 assists in an efficient 19 minutes.
At the same time, there were warts aplenty: the defense, for example, is clearly a work in progress. The rotations were a step slow, the help defense was sometimes non-existent, and MU lost the rebounding battle by five (39 to 34) and gave up 13 offensive boards to the Raiders. Big man Chris Otule had a nice day from the field (5-5 for 11 points) but didn't grab a rebound in 17 minutes, and Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue (who, at least in this game, was looking for his jumper a lot more than we've come to expect) combined to go 4-16 from the floor.
A couple of quick-hitters, then the awards:
- I think Jamil Wilson's gonna blow up this year.
- Anderson's shoulder turned out to be no worse for wear: he came back in the second half and grabbed an impressive eight rebounds to finish with a team-high 9. He was active, he ran the floor well, he was in the right spot at the right time; he looked like he belonged out there. And yet: when you see quotes like this one: "I've been telling him the last couple weeks, he needs to put me in a position where I can't keep him off the floor" -- do you get the impression that Buzz Williams isn't sold yet?
- Speaking of not sold: I don't see it with Jake Thomas. He looked like freshman-vintage Scott Christopherson out there. Against Colgate. I know everybody wants him to be good, especially with the opportunity created by Todd Mayo's indefinite absence, but there's a reason he was slated to be a walk-on the last two years. You know?
- It's way too early to know if this is going to be a thing going forward, but it's something to think about, anyway: last year, Vander made himself an asset by being a do-everything guard: grabbing rebounds, hitting his throws, playing good defense, and so on, all of which covered up the fact that his scoring game is somewhat (OK, fine: quite a bit) limited. But Trent Lockett is the same type of do-everything guard (again: 7-7-3-5 yesterday), only his jumper isn't broke. That being the case, I wonder what Vander's role is going to be this season.
- That Murphy Burnatowski dude for Colgate was a dead ringer for Roy from The Office, wasn't he?