Yesterday's game between a team that's likely to finish seventh in the Big 10/11/12 and a team that's likely to finish 11th in the Big East played out exactly like you'd expect: ugly at the start, ugly at the end, with a whole lot of ugly in between. Ultimately, the Wisconsin Badgers were able put enough make-up on their warts to deal YOUR floundering Marquette Golden Eagles a 69-64 loss in Milwaukee.
As is often the case, the box score doesn't tell you how badly Marquette was outworked in this game. You'll see that both teams shot over 45% from the field, both teams had ten turnovers, both teams made only a few three-pointers (3 on 19 attempts for Bucky, 4 on 9 attempts for Marquette) -- and that Marquette made more free throws than the Badgers attempted. But the Badgers controlled this game from the tip, bleeding the clock, getting good looks while forcing Marquette into contested shots, and, most importantly, dominating the backboards, with TWELVE offensive rebounds in the second half and 15 in the game. With the outcome still in doubt late in the second half and Marquette desperately in need of a stop, Wisconsin went into keep away mode, grabbing offensive rebounds at will and running minutes from the clock as a result.
We've talked about the rebounding thing ad nauseum with this Marquette team, and, at this point, you have to believe that the coaches are hammering the issue every day, in every practice. But we're not seeing results; from failure to block out the shooter so he can't follow his shot to losing your man underneath the basket, it's an all-around catastrophe. For a team that preaches "Grind Together Shine Together" and a coach that talks about valuing toughness above all to get punked on the backboards game after game after game is maddening.
A few angry observations:
- I would take an entire team of Vander Blues. Love his heart, love his energy (especially on the defensive end), love that he didn't force things offensively when there was every reason to.
- In a semi-related story: Josh Gasser is Jason Bohannon without the jump shot. I'll take our guy every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
- It's becoming readily apparent that Coach Buzz can't coach defense. His first year -- when a theretofore terrific defensive team suddenly turned into a group that tried to outrun and outgun the opposition -- I was ready to dismiss as a fluke. But now the evidence is piling up: for one, that press yesterday was absolute garbage; what's the point in playing full-court defense if you're just going to allow the team to pass the ball back and forth with no resistance until they cross the mid-court stripe? For another, the failure to show a zone defense at any time against that gaggle of bricklayers was baffling. Pack the lane and let 'em try to shoot over you; I think you'd be pleased with the results.
- One more note on the defense: some people are of the opinion that Marquette played alright on defense. To those people, I say two things: we surrendered 69 points to a team that's struggled to break 60 against any team with a pulse; and, moreover, the Badgers are so putrid offensively that it's impossible to say that your defense was anything special.
- I'll echo one of Warrior Brad's concerns: I don't know what this team does well. We've covered defense. We've covered rebounding. As for the offense: we used to salivate at the prospect of a team playing man-to-man defense against Marquette: we could drive-and-kick, we could attack the basket from the wings, etc. Now? We run iso plays, bullrush the rim, and hope for the foul.
- I don't know what else to say about Darius Johnson-Odom at this point. We're a third of the way into the schedule, and DJO's mildly-irritating slow start has now mushroomed into a full-blown sophomore slump. Once again, he missed his first couple looks from three-point range and then went tail between the legs for the rest of the first half, passing up open looks and shot-faking endlessly. Coach Buzz must've had the same reaction I did -- if he's not going to shoot when his defender falls down and there's no one within 15 feet of him, then there's no point for him to be in the game -- because DJO spent most of the final 15 minutes of the first half planted on the bench. Is he going to turn things around this year? I'm not so sure anymore.
- For the ninth time in ten games, I have nothing good to say about Chris Otule, so I will say nothing at all.
Junior Cadougan showed flashes yesterday, with a few hard-nosed drives to the basket that resulted in (respectively) a foul, and and-1, and a pretty dump off to Davante Gardner for a bunny. He's getting there, and if he can put it together for 30 minutes, we might have a good one here.
Awards? If we must:
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game Award: Tempting to give it to Jimmy here; he showed a solid mid-range game and even hit a couple of threes. But in 37 minutes of action, he only grabbed four rebounds and he missed the front-end of a bonus free throw that could've made the game more interesting. So the award goes to Dwight Buycks, who shook off a bum wheel to tally 13 points (on 6-of-8 shooting, no less) with three rebounds, three assists, and only one turnover in 26 productive minutes.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Davante Gardner did his best to fill the void left by Otule, who got the start, played two minutes, and wasn't heard from again. Big Smoove put up 9 points in only 18 minutes and was impressive from the stripe, hitting 5-of-6 throws. Gardner also chipped in three rebounds and had a steal to boot.
ERRONEOUS! Call of the Game: Despite being outplayed for 39 minutes, Marquette still had a chance to send the game to overtime when Jordan Taylor missed the second free throw in the super bonus with seven seconds to go, leaving the Badgers with a three-point lead. Buycks hurried the ball up court, and it was clear to everyone in the congregation that Bo Ryan's strategy was to foul so Marquette couldn't attempt a three. Buycks was hacked as soon as he crossed half court, hacked as he dribbled to the corner, and hacked some more as he lost control of the ball out of bounds. No whistle. Ball game.
The First Annual Chad Alvarez Memorial BADGER HATE WEEK Hate Awards: Some people -- level-headed, easy-going types -- have wondered why we would devote a week of the blog's time to Badger Hate, and why we spend so much energy rooting against the Badgers all year. I don't know how the numbers break down for the rest of yous, but for me, it's 20% Badger coaches, since Bo and Bielema are as thoroughly unlikable as any two coaches in the country, and it's 80% Badger fans. For every cool Badger fan like Supertramp or PaulNoonan, it seems like there are three Marmalards, as typified by the moron sitting next to me and Mrs. Q at the game and the waste-of-space bigot who was taunting Warrior Brad after the game.
In regards to the former: there's a certain etiquette when you're a visiting fan -- cheer for your team, of course, but don't be obnoxious about it (like, say, standing and whistling as loud as you can after EVERY SINGLE PLAY), don't taunt fans of the home team if you have the good fortune to win, and certainly don't mock the Marquette students for starting to leave with 1.8 seconds left in the game when the Bucky student section hasn't even been half-full for any game this year. Enjoy your win, exchange a high-five with your buddies, and get home safe.
In regards to the latter: it's one thing to be a teensy bit racist, but it's another thing entirely to publicly announce your bigotry by taunting Marquette fans with questions like: "How many of your players graduate?" after the game. For your information, Mrs. Klan, all of our kids graduate. Trust me, I've been to almost every Marquette graduation ceremony in the last four (or so) years, and the seniors are there, every year, diploma in hand. I know that's a tough idea to wrap your lilly-white, Brown v. Board of Education-hatin' brain around, but it's true.
So, congratulations, ladies: next year's BADGER HATE WEEK is fueled by you.