Ok, here's one for ya. Stop me if you've heard this before:
So there's this basketball team, right. And they come out and start the game looking really, really awful. But then... Oh, you've heard this one already? About how the team rights the ship, comes back, wins the game and the coach sweats through his shirt? Oh, well, let me tell it again, just in case there's anyone out there that hasn't heard it.
Yes folks they did again. YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles once again came out of the gates a little slow, in their Tuesday night matchup with the Seton Hall Pirates. It's almost as if the team held a meeting after blowing that lead at Georgetown and said, "Ok, from now on, if we're going to have a shitty half it's going to be the FIRST half!" Then we can only assume a vote was held and the motion carried, because in 7 of the next 8 games involved some sort of slow/sluggish/lackluster/inauspicious performance in the early part of the game. In previous games that has resulted in MU having to overcome significant first half deficits. Luckily, tonight they were only playing Seton Hall and got down by just 11.
Turnovers and sloppiness ruled the day in the first half. Marquette committed 5 turnovers in the first 5 minutes of the game, and 11 in the half. Seton Hall wasn't much better, committing 9 turnovers of their own. The Pirates shot just 39% in the first and missed out on a chance to really bury MU in the early going. Marquette followed the familiar pattern of relative horrendousness, followed by stabilizing and then putting together a run that gets them back into the game. For most fans in attendance, only being down 30-26 at the half seemed like a minor victory.
Once again, the momentum that MU had generated late in the first half carried over into the second. They kept Seton Hall within about 4 points until Junior Cadougan found Vander Blue for a thunderous alley-oop dunk, that brought the Bradley Center crowd to life. From that point Marquette went on a 14-2 spurt that gave them the lead for the first time in the game - a lead they would never relinquish. The Hall tried to make a run, and actually made the fans start to squirm a bit when they got within 5 with 3:29 to play. But thanks to Herb Pope foul trouble and a crushing advantage from the free throw line, MU was able to put this one away.
More takes, numbers, and awards after this jump
From the Mr. K notebook:
- After much speculation, it was made official a few hours before the game that Marquette would have to play this one without the services of The Big Nickname, Davante Gardner. Davante's absence was felt, but a lot of other players performed well to help cover for the loss. Word in the hood is that Ox will be game to game going forward.
- One of the big questions being asked in the wake of the Gardner announcement was, "Who is going to fill in for Jamil Wilson, if Jamil is filling in for Davante?" The answer to that was: Jamil Wilson. Jamil logged a career high 36 minutes tonight, pretty much covering all of his usual 21 minutes and then 15 of Davante's 19 minutes. The other 4 minutes you ask? They were parceled out evenly between Juan Anderson and Jamail Jones (0 points, 2 turnovers combined).
- Darius Johnson-Odom - 14 points, 7 assists (career high), 5 rebounds. That's how you fill up the stat sheet folks. A nice all-around evening for DJO, who did not have his best shooting stroke going - especially early on.
- Fun fact: Jae Crowder leads all players in steals per game, in Big East contests, at over 3 per game. Steals! He really does do it all.
- Vander Blue had his best Big East game of this season, and probably of his career. He almost single handedly spurred the Marquette run that took control of the game. He scored 9 of the first 11 MU points in the second half. Seemingly out of nowhere, we looked up at the scoreboard and Vander had 15 points and led all scorers. He finished with 16 points, on 7 of 10 shooting, grabbed 8 boards and added a block, a steal and an assist to complete the line.
- Herb Pope was a handful for Marquette minus Gardner (And to be honest, he would've been that even if Davante had played). He scored 12 points in the first half, and Seton Hall's first bucket of the second. But with 14 minutes left in the game, Herb picked up his 3rd foul. He would only score 2 more points from that point forward. And, not surprisingly, his exit after that 3rd foul coincided with the beginning of the MU run.
Raise your hand if you want awards!
Player of the Game: All fans (All 3 of 'em) polled by me immediately after the game felt Vander Blue should get the POTG honors tonight. But closer inspection of the numbers reveals the true hero of this contest. While Vander was excellent tonight, it was Jae Crowder and his sneaky quiet 20 points and 12 boards that really carried Marquette to the win. Jae made 6 of 11 shots from the floor and 8 of 9(!) from the charity stripe. Add to that some good defense against the bangers down low, and you have a very JMFBPOTG worthy evening.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I know he logged a lot of time, and got a lot of attention, but Jamil Wilson deserves some love for this game. He scored 9 points on 4-12 shooting, which is nice, but that's not what gets him the nod tonight. Nor was it the 4 rebounds. Not even the 3 assists and 1 block. The assists were all pretty, and the block was huge - a perfectly clean rejection of a would be lay-up that led to a break and a lay-up on the other end.
Those are all awesome. But I'm giving Jamil the Fulce tonight for his 3 personal fouls. On a night where Marquette was ultra thin on the front line, they could not afford to have Jamil sitting down with fouls. He played almost the entire game, did all those things I mentioned, guarded their bigs, challenged and altered shots (I'm actually surprised he only got credited with the 1 block), while only committing 3 fouls - and the 3rd came with 46 seconds left in the game. If he had to spend extended time on the pine tonight, I don't think Marquette gets the win.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: This is a no brainer. The wicked alley-oop from Cadougan to Blue. That play changed the momentum of the game. Even Dwyane Wade and LeBron James got fired up for that one from their courtside seats near the Marquette bench.
Up Next: A Saturday roadie to South Bend, IN. Marquette will head down the Purcell Pavilion/Joyce Center/Whatever they call it these days, to take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. That will tip at noon CST. If anyone is making the trip, we will see you there!