Riding the Ox: Marquette 64, Southeastern Louisiana 53

Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE

Not to go all Tim McCarver on you here, but last night's victory over the plucky SELA Lions showed that the best thing about having competent big men is that they're big and competent, which is a hell of a luxury when you're broke from the perimeter.

OK, OK, OK: obviously, nobody feels great about an 11-point, closer-than-the-final-margin-would-indicate victory over a Southeastern Louisiana team that got disemboweled by Wisconsin two days earlier. And, to be sure, there are still plenty of kinks that need to be worked out before the boys depart for the sweatbox that is the Lahaina Civic Center at the end of the week.

And, of course, it's disturbing that Vander Blue has looked like Vander v.1.0 instead of Teh New Hotness Vander v.2.0 (post-Nova game) that we saw last year, and that Jamil Wilson followed a big game on Sunday with a dismal 2-8 shooting performance last night, and that Jamal Ferguson and Steve Taylor look grossly overmatched already, and that the depth chart, thus far, for "guy who can hit a jumper" consists of the kid who's on indefinite academic suspension.

I get that.

At the same time, before you light your Dwyane Wade bobblehead on fire and cut up your Marquette Madness t-shirt into cleaning rags, please bear these things in mind:

  • On November 13, 2006, Marquette got taken to overtime, at home, by Idaho State, eeking out a 59-56 victory over a team that finished 13-17 and lost by 40 to Utah State two weeks later. A week after that, Marquette blitzed Duke for a 73-62 win in Kansas City in the CBE Classic...
  • ...And then, ten days later, Marquette lost to North Dakota State at home.
  • On November 12, 2007, Marquette came from behind to beat Utah Valley State, 66-55, at the Bradley Center. MU trailed at halftime, 34-32, was up by just 4 with six minutes left, and needed a big effort from Dwight Burke to edge the Wolverines.
  • A week after that, in a first-round Maui Invitational contest, MU let Chaminade hang around all game before finally pulling away for a 74-63 victory. The next day, MU ran a good Oklahoma State team out of the gym, winning by 30.
  • Two years ago, Marquette needed a 24-0, second-half run to beat Bucknell at home. And a week after that, MU couldn't hit from deep and let South Dakota bomb away early and often, which resulted in a closer-than-it-needed-to-be 82-69 win.

Point is: it's November. Weird shit happens in college basketball in November. Sometimes it's a harbinger of things to come. More often, it's just weird shit.

A few observations on the game, and then we dispatch this one to the dustbin:

  • For the second time in as many games, Marquette had a scare on the injury front, as senior Trent Lockett took a nasty tumble in the game's opening minutes and smacked his head on the Bradley Center floor. Lockett was held out for most of the first half, but Buzz Williams said after the game that had as much to do with the foul situation -- Lockett picked up two in about 20 seconds after checking back into the game -- as his noggin.
  • The points will certainly be harder to come by when the competition picks up, of course, but Davante Gardner and Chris Otule were a load last night, with Otule putting up 10 points and 5 boards in 18 minutes and the Big Nickname doing his standard-fare, high-efficiency routine: 21 minutes, 18 points, 6 rebounds (four on offense), an assist, and nearly fouling out SELA's Jamaal James in just 7 minutes of action.
  • Jamil Wilson was held scoreless in the first half and finished the night with just six points (though his three-point play with a minute left mercifully put the game to bed), but he made up for that lackluster scoring output with seven rebounds, five assists, and a block in 30 minutes. Vander Blue turned in a similar line: just 1-7 from the field (with three turnovers and a couple of ill-timed bullrushes into the lane), but 4-4 from the line with 5 boards and a couple dimes.
  • I'm not going to harp on the Jake Thomas thing all year. I promise. Partly because mama taught me not to say nuthin' if I've got nuthin' nice to say, but mostly because I doubt he's going to play more than 10 minutes total in Maui. (Sorry, mama.)
  • For the second game in a row, Juan Anderson drilled a triple from the top of the key, making him the early frontrunner to inherit the mantle previously held by Lazar Hayward (and his patented top-of-the-key trailer three) and Straightaway Jae Crowder.

A few awards:

Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: I've said this before, and I'll say it again: much like Rowdy Roddy Piper's character in They Live came to do two things: chew bubble gum and kick ass, Davante Gardner was put on this earth to score buckets. And to be chillin, doe.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Stop me if you've heard this before: we haven't mentioned Derrick Wilson's play yet, but he turned in another solid outing: 13 minutes, two assists, no turnovers.

Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Plays of the Game: Ox came up time and again last night, but his two most critical buckets came with 4 minutes and 3:22 left in the game, respectively: the first layup gave MU a four-point advantage, and the second, which followed a Junior Cadougan steal, gave Marquette a six-point cushion and enough wiggle room to escape with a victory.

Up Next: Six days off, then a date with the Butler Bulldogs, who bricked their way to an ugly loss against Xavier during the Tipoff Marathon yesterday, in the Maui Invitational.

Til then: mele kalikimaka.

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