Though the outcome of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles’ trip to the godforsaken (and, in this case, literally) frozen nightmare box that is the Kohl Center wasn’t much of a surprise, the path that culminated in Wisconsin’s 70-64 victory had some twists and turns that weren’t expected.
- Though the Badgers are the team that’s frequently maligned for turning their games into glacially-paced yawners, Marquette was much more interested in taking the game into Greco-Roman territory than UW was. For the game, MU attempted only eight 3-point goals (PRAISE YEEZUS), preferring to beat the ball inside with Davante Gardner and Chris Otule and letting Jamil Wilson and Deonte Burton (briefly) attack the rim.
- While Marquette has been attempting a curious number of 3-pointers on the season, it was the Badgers who were broke from the outside and yet continued to insist on chucking the ball in the vague direction of the hoop. The Badgers finished a frigid 7-26 from 3-point land (with Josh Gasser, Trae Jackson, and Bronson Koenig going a combined 0-9), and most of those misses were on wide open looks.
- The Jim Burr-led officiating crew wasn’t a complete abomination. Of course, with Burr on scene, there were sure to be a couple of headscratchers, and the laughable double foul Burr whistled when Gardner was backing down Evan Anderson certainly qualifies. But though Gasser and Ben Brust weren’t called for any fouls in 77 minutes of combined action, that’s not at all surprising given the fact that they were tasked with guarding Derrick Wilson and Jake Thomas for most of the day.
- Jamil Wilson was terrific in his own magnificently frustrating "I knew you had games like this in you, so what the hell happened against San Diego State?" way. (And, for the 18th time, I’m tempted to type "maybe THIS is the game where the light switch went on once and for all," only I know he’s going to score 8 points against Ball State. So. Yeah.)
- Wisconsin threw two (2!) alley-oops in the game. (Sources indicate smelling salts were distributed to the blue hairs sitting courtside in Madison.)
There were also some things that weren’t out of the ordinary at all: Jake Thomas was overwhelmed by high-major competition; Burton is going to be an animal if he figures out that the officials are serious about those hand-checking rules this year; Derrick Wilson is meh; and Juan Anderson looks to be the heir to the Joe Fulce Plucky Glue Guy throne.
And then there’s the big thing that came as no surprise: after he never took off his warm-ups in the first half, we learned at halftime (and BTW: nice beat reportage there, crew) that Todd Mayo had been suspended, again, for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Given his checkered past of knuckleheadery, I’d be mildly surprised (and somewhat disappointed) if Mayo is still on the team come conference season. Because this isn’t a 17- or 18-year-old kid making 17- or 18-year-old kid mistakes any more; he’s going to be 23 in March, and we’ve reached the point where it’s time to acknowledge that he doesn’t get it and it’s best to move on.
Whether that happens, of course, is anybody’s guess, because trying to predict what Coach Buzz will do is like trying to predict the weather in Wisconsin in April. And with the state of the current roster—Thomas still playing 25+ minutes a night because Buzz, for whatever reason, isn’t comfortable with Jajuan Johnson yet, and Burton can’t keep his hands to himself, and Duane Wilson probably isn’t going to see any run this year, and now Steve Taylor’s surgically-repaired knee is barking and he might be shut down, too—Mayo might be kept around just in case the body count gets any higher. But with a coach who talks as much as Buzz does about having to earn everything you get, you wonder what Mayo’s done to earn his sixth or seventh chance.
The awards, then:
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: Marquette had no answer for Sam Dekker on Saturday, but Jamil Wilson was Dekker’s equal on the other end: the Big Kringle poured in 22 points on 10-20 shooting, grabbed four boards and handed out four assists, and hit a jawdropping, fall-away 3-pointer with a couple minutes to go that drew Marquette within three.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Tempting to go with Chris Otule’s 11-point, 9-rebound effort, but when he was forced to track Frank Kaminsky around the 3-point line on the defensive end, the big man was something of a liability. So we’ll give the nod to Fulce Lite, Juan Anderson, for his 8-point, 6-rebound showing.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: I’m prone to hyperbole from time to time. But this is no exaggeration: I haven’t stopped laughing about Ben Brust getting rejected by the front of the rim – the FRONT of the rim – on a breakaway dunk attempt since it happened. I just thought about it again, and, yep, here come the giggles. (Related: anytime somebody misses a dunk from here on out, he got Brusted.)
Up Next: Sitting at 5-4 for the first time in over a decade, YOUR Golden Eagles look to right the ship against the fightin’ Poohies (I have no idea who their mascot is) of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis