Engage Afterburners: Marquette 79, UMBC 46

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

If you missed the first half of Marquette's tussle with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (and, by the way, huzzah for you, Retrievers, for eschewing the traditional hyphen between "Maryland" and "Baltimore" and opting for the grossly underutilized comma instead), you didn't exactly rob yourself of an opportunity to see basketball played at its highest level.

It was a herky-jerky opening 20 minutes for YOUR Golden Eagles, who seemed more interested in exploring the details of their belly buttons than playing ball for the majority of the first half. Just to name a few examples: following a lackadaisical first four minutes, Buzz Williams subbed out the entire starting five at the 16-minute mark of the first half; Davante Gardner attempted a set-shot three-pointer with about 20 seconds left on the shot clock; after opening a 19-13 lead with 11:20 left in the half on a Jake Thomas triple, MU went silent for the next six-and-a-half minutes, and eventually allowed the Retrievers to forge a 20-20 tie with four minutes to play in the half.

And then, just when things were threatening to get real silly, as former (momentary) Golden Eagle Brett Roseboro was canning a jumper to give UMBC a 31-30 lead with 16:52 remaining in the contest, this happened:

Trent Lockett hit a jumper, and then two free throws on the next possession. Jamil Wilson took a nifty feed from Junior Cadougan for a layup, then got beat on the other end for a lay-in by Chase Plumlee. Jake Thomas answered with a 12-footer, Big Smoove took another nifty feed from Cadougan for a layup, Jamil drained a three, Thomas banked in a 10-footer, Steve Taylor hit a jumper, and then UMBC's Ryan Cook had a three-point play following a botched blocking foul called on Chris Otule.

If you're scoring at home, that's a 17-5 run, which was a welcome relief after MU was flummoxed by UMBC's 2-3 zone for the first 25 minutes of the game. But it turned out that 11-point swing was only the appetizer, because after Cook's three-point play, Marquette ripped off a 20-0 run, highlighted by a three from Thomas, five points from Ox, and a tremendous dunk from Juan Anderson on a baseline drive.

When the smoke cleared, Marquette had a 67-36 stranglehold on the game, everyone could breath a sigh of relief, and Marquette radio analyst George Thompson could playfully refer to UMBC as "the Terriers or Receivers or Red Poodles or whatever they are."

The notes, the awards, and then we prepare for Swamp Combat on Thursday:

  • Marquette's point guards combined for one (1) point tonight, on the strength of a Derrick Wilson free throw in the first half. Of course, you can afford to have nights like that when you combine for 15 assists (eight for Cadougan, seven for D. Wilson in just 19 minutes), eight rebounds (including six from Junior) and three steals with just two turnovers.
  • Jamil Wilson continued his impressive recovery from his forgettable performance against Butler in Maui: when everyone else was broke in the first half, Milly hit four of five shots and finished the game 7-8 from the floor, hitting his only three-point attempt and grabbing six rebounds to round out a tidy 15-6-1 line in 21 minutes.
  • From the "Things I Didn't Think I'd Be Writing Two Years Ago" Files: when Marquette was struggling to figure out how to attack UMBC's zone, I found myself thinking: man, a couple jumpers from Vander Blue would go a long way right now.
  • Speaking of Vander: Coach Buzz says Blue should be good to go against Florida on Thursday, but that won't be confirmed until tomorrow.
  • Davante Gardner had five (FIVE) steals tonight. Take a picture of that line in the box score.
  • Freshman Jamal Ferguson got the least amount of run tonight (just 16 minutes), but he showed some flashes, hitting his only attempt from the field (a dunk following a steal) and putting in two free throws to go with three rebounds and three assists. If it's possible to be sneakily athletic, Ferguson probably qualifies: he bounces like a pogo stick and can ramp up to another gear in the open court.
  • Roseboro fouled out in 20 minutes, which might qualify as the least surprising thing I'll write all year.

Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: Fine, fine: Jamil Wilson led the team in scoring, but Jake Thomas was a sparkplug off the bench: JT hit two threes and headfaked his way to a couple of pretty mid-range jumpers. Throw in three rebounds and an assist, and you've got yourself a pretty nice little Monday for the Racine St. Cat's product.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Here's the deal: any time Derrick Wilson wants to stop putting up big assist and low turnover numbers (7-2 tonight), we'll stop giving him the Fulce Award. Until then, he's got the belt.

Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: MU was just beginning its 20-0 run when Juan Anderson found himself curiously unguarded on the baseline with 10:32 left in the game. Showing a tantalizing glimpse of the player everybody thought he could be when he signed with Marquette, Juan glided down the baseline and threw down a monster jam for a 15-point Marquette lead.

Up Next: A trip to Gainesville to battle the Florida Gators, the team that unceremoniously ended the Marquette careers of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom by pasting the Golden Eagles in the 2012 Sweet 16.

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