The level of competition isn't stellar, of course, and we're only dealing with a two-game sample size, but still: after looking curiously timid in getting beat to nearly every 50-50 ball against Wisconsin ten days ago, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles have been a whirlwind of energy and hustle in a pair of dominating wins in the last five days. Much like Saturday's win over IUPUI, MU simply overwhelmed an overmatched Ball State squad en route to an easy 91-53 bludgeoning of the Cardinals on Tuesday night.
The face of this rediscovered energy is junior forward Juan Anderson, who followed up his stellar, self-described "glue guy" effort on Saturday with a 10-point, 6-rebound, 3-assist, 6-steal performance tonight. All but one of Anderson's steals and all but two of his points came in the first half, and you're a damned liar if you thought that Juan would rack up double-digit steals in the course of two games this season.
Anderson's back-to-back performances are the most notable, but everybody's looked good in the last two games: Chris Otule abused former Marquette target (a phrase which I hate; it sounds like dude's a military compound in Afghanistan or something) Majok Majok to the tune of 14 points and 6 boards on 5-6 shooting; Jamil Wilson didn't shoot a ton but was efficient when he did (5-8, a team-high 13 points); Deonte Burton bowling-balled for 12 points and 6 rebounds (and fouled out, because we're still working on keeping our hands to ourselves); Ox dipped, ducked, dived, and dodged his way to 10 points (though he was most excited about his two assists); and JaJuAn Johnson settled in for a dozen points of his own after threatening to go VOLUME SHOOTER ALERT on us in the early going.
The only items that would qualify as news, I suppose, were the continued absences of Duane Wilson and Steve Taylor, Jr. It's not a shock that neither one saw even a minute of run, but with New Mexico on the immediate horizon and Samford serving as the last opponent before conference season kicks off, it's starting to look more and more like Taylor and Wilson might both be relegated to redshirt-ville. Maybe there's a glimmer of hope for Taylor, since he's been through the Big East wringer before and probably would need less prep to be ready, but there's precious little time for Wilson to get his feet wet, and if you can't get a bit of time against Ball State, you're probably a long way from being able to contribute in meaningful games.
Oh, and Derrick Wilson hit a 3. I know, right?
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: I want you to know that, had it been up to me, Juan Anderson would have gotten the Crowder for his 11-point, 5-steal game on Saturday. But it wasn't up to me, so Juan will have to settle for tonight's award in recognition of his all-around effort. Eleven steals in two games? Come on!
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Chris Otule was a force on both ends of the floor, tallying an impressive four blocks to go along with his 14 points and 6 rebounds. Big Chris looked a little shaky in the early stages of the season, but he's showing signs of being the defensive force that he was in 2010-'11 and 2012-'13. (Also: Otule's already shot -- and made -- more free throws this season than he did all of last season.)
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: With four minutes to go in the opening half, Anderson nabbed one of his five first-half steals and then whipped a nifty behind-the-back pass to JaJuAn on the break, with Johnson's lay-in giving MU a 15-point lead.
Up Next: A trip to the City of Sin (that's Las Vegas, right?) and a date with New Mexico looms for MU, with the Lobos representing the last chance for YOUR Golden Eagles to add a quality non-conference win to their resume.