It was about as perfect of a regular season finale as you could want from your basketball team.
First, the student section stepped up their game in a big way, not only being nearly full with 15 minutes left to go before tipoff, but also proving that they would be completely dialed in from the start:
From that Jamil Wilson jumper to start the game, Marquette opened a 7-2 lead. Georgetown hit a few shots and the lead bounced back and forth a bit across the first 8 minutes or so. When Jamil Wilson hit a three with 11:45 left in the first half, we didn't know it at the time, but Marquette had taken the lead for good.
The good news continued when Davante Gardner returned to action at the 11:17 mark of the first half for the first time since the game at Villanova. He played 88 seconds while Marquette forced a turnover and a shot clock violation and he grabbed an offensive rebound. Hard to argue with his efficiency.
Marquette would eventually build the lead to 10 at the half, which brings us to the best part of the game. On 7 different occasions in the second half, Georgetown cut the Marquette lead to single digits. But unlike what happened in the first game between these two teams, Marquette never let the lead go more than 1 basket under single digits.
All in all, Marquette ended up with the 14 point win. But the season is not over. Not by a long shot. Marquette has business to take care of in New York starting on Thursday night.
Hit the jump and we'll get to some notes and awards.
- We were all excited to see Davante make his return to action. But I don't know if there was anyone more fired up than strength coach Todd Smith. When Gardner came out of the game after his first appearance, Smith went running up to him and pounded him on the chest in what I can only presume was an exultation of how proud Smith was of all of the hard work that Gardner's done to transform his body over the last year.
- While we're on the topic of Davante, he was badly limping up and down the court the more he played in the game. If he's healthy enough to play on Thursday in the Big East tournament, I don't know how available he'd be for a Friday game. Then again, I first noticed his limp in the first half, and then he promptly grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back on that possession, so maybe I'm just being overly cautious.
- It only happened the one time that I remembered seeing, but it was fun to see Marquette run a backdoor cut and score easily against JT3 and Georgetown who love their Princeton offensive pieces.
- Late in the game, Marquette was allowing easy buckets by Georgetown on repeated possessions. The poor defense was troubling, but there were two factors at work when you look at the time left in the game: Marquette was leading by double digits and at the time, Marquette had 4 players on the court with 3 fouls. It was still early enough that if they had picked up their fourth, they'd have to head to the bench for 3-4 minutes at least. It's hard to argue with the philosophy of avoiding stupid fouls to maintain a lead, and since Marquette was able to answer Georgetown's buckets, it's not that big of a deal.
- OH MY GOODNESS THE FOULS. 48 fouls were called in this game and this game didn't even have the late game fouling to extend the number of possessions for the trailing team. Marquette shot 45 free throws against "only" 50 field goals. It wasn't really even what I'd call bad officiating, other than the ridiculous technical foul that Jamil Wilson was issued for "hanging" on the rim after the aforementioned alley-oop.
- Before I get to awards, I want to point out the standing ovation that Marquette women's soccer goalkeeper Natalie Kulla got when she was introduced during the first media time out in recognition of her Big East Female Student-Athlete Of The Year award. It's always easy to get a pop from Marquette fans for an outstanding athlete who's also an outstanding student like Natalie was at Marquette.
eFG%: MU - 50% GTown - 43.7%
TO%: MU - 16.8% GTown - 20.6%
OReb%: MU - 36.4% GTown - 38.6%
FT Rate: MU - 90% GTown - 39.7%
Points Per Possession: MU - 1.16 GTown - 0.95
Jae Crowder Player Of The Game: Mr. Unanimous Jae Crowder picks it up again. 26 points, a career high 14 rebounds, five more steals, three assists and a block. When was the last time you saw a guy go 0-5 behind the arc and no one gives a crap, much less even notices?
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle Of The Game: I don't know if he has a chance to win the Big East's award for Most Improved, but Vander Blue is clearly Marquette's most improved player. 13 points of 3-6 shooting and 7-9 from the charity stripe. He added 4 rebounds and a steal and was clearly indispensible in how Marquette played, but I'll be darned if I can remember a single stand out moment from him.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play Of The Game: It's tempting to use Ox's return to action here, and Jamil's alley-oop dunk would be up there too if he wasn't issued a T for it. But ultimately, I don't think I can go with an actual play in the game. We're going to go with the giant smile on the face of Buzz Williams and giant hug that he issued both Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom when he removed them from the game in the closing minutes to give them the opportunity for a standing ovation that they deserved.
Up Next: Well, we're not quite sure yet, are we? The Big East tournament starts on Tuesday, and the Providence-Seton Hall winner will move to Wednesday to face Louisville. The winner of THAT game is Marquette's next opponent. Keep your web browser pointed in this direction, and we'll be sure to let you know as soon as we know.