With the (official) news that Marquette and its Catholic 7 friends are catching the next available train out of the football-ravaged ruins of the Big East Conference, yesterday's afternoon tilt against the Tigers of Savannah State was, quite understandably, relegated to the backburner. After being on the business end of a 40-point drubbing at the hands of Ohio State on Wednesday, and having only scored 60+ points in two games this season (one of which came against Trinity Baptist, which boasts an enrollment of 283 undergrads), the Tigers weren't expected to pose much of a threat to YOUR Golden Eagles.
On the heels of a week-long layoff, though, and having accumulated about 10 layers of exam-week rust, Marquette, much like it did against UMBC and Southeastern Louisiana, looked out of sorts in the opening 20 minutes. Savannah State features one of the most anemic offenses in Division I basketball, averaging a woeful 0.88 points per possession (good for 329th place in KenPom's rankings), but MU let the smaller Tigers get to the basket at will, ceding layup after layup as Savannah State was within striking distance at halftime, down eight points.
The second half, mercifully, was a different story, as a quick 7-0 run put Marquette up 15 and ensured that the day's biggest news remained off the court. Trent Lockett scored 5 points on a three and a jumper in that spurt, and though the Tigers cut the deficit to 8 with eight minutes to go, the outcome was never really in doubt. Davante Gardner, despite getting just 16 minutes of run, made sure of that, pouring in 12 points in the second half to finish with his standard high-efficiency line of 14 points, 6 boards, one assist, and one steal.
A few notes:
- Vander Blue scored a quiet 14 to go with two rebounds, two assists, and two steals, which isn't big news. The fact that I could write "Vander Blue scored a quiet 14," on the other hand, is awesome.
- Jamil Wilson came off the bench to play 25 minutes, but finished with a yawner of a line: 4 points, 4 rebounds, an assist and a block. I am beginning to worry that I want Jamil to be better than he is.
- Steve Taylor, Jr. (better known to those of you who follow the game online as "S. Jr.") was the only Marquette big man who looked like he knew the game started at 1:00 p.m. The Chicago Simeon product had 10 points in the first half, made all four of his free throws, and grabbed four offensive rebounds to boot. With Chris Otule lost from the stripe (1-6) and not doing much defensively, Taylor made the most of his minutes.
- Leaving aside Otule's performance at the line, Marquette made 23 of 26 foul shots, which was a welcome relief after the hideous showing from the stripe against Wisconsin last Saturday. Junior Cadougan (5-5), Taylor, Vander (4-4), and Jamil (2-2) each made all of their attempts, and Ox finished 6-7.
- It was a different story from beyond the arc, though: Lockett was the only Marquette player to hit a triple, as Jake Thomas (0-3) and Co. couldn't hit from deep. Marquette finished 1-9 on the day.
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: Junior Cadougan was again impressive after his dynamite second-half against Wisconsin, but his four turnovers eliminate him from contention for the Crowder today. Instead, the nod goes to Steve Taylor, Jr., for his 10-6, no foul, no turnover, one steal performance.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Derrick Wilson cedes the Fulce because he, too, turned over the rock four times on the day. Trent Lockett, however, only fumbled the ball once in 23 minutes, which was a great sign after his seven turnovers against Wisconsin.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: After surviving a 12-3 run that cut a 17-point lead to 8, Big Smoove put the Tigers to bed for good with a three-point play with seven minutes to go, and somehow didn't get called for a technical foul after giving an extended, "you mess with the bull, you get the horns" staredown to Savannah State's Khiry White.
Up Next: A rare trip to Green Bay and the Resch Center, and a meeting with former Marquette gunner Brian Wardle, looms on Wednesday. Until then.