Tonight's recap comes courtesy of Friend of the Program (and the best sports columnist working in Milwaukee), Howie Magner:
"So to recap. Marquette won. And it wasn't close. 102-77. The End."
And that's really all you need to know.
You want more? Alright, fine: in the spirit of Christmas, we'll give away a few more goodies, but you're going to have to earn it. Jump, then we talk.
With Joe Fulce, Junior Cadougan, and Reggie Smith missing the game (knee, sick, really sick, respectively), YOUR Golden Eagles were down to nine healthy scholarship players and, just as importantly, a single point guard against a Mississippi Valley State team that likes to run and gun. After some troubling moments in the early-going -- MVSU lead 14-8 with seven minutes gone in the first half, and Marquette didn't retake the lead until the ten minute mark of the opening period -- Marquette found its sea legs and never looked back, blitzing the Delta Devils with 56 first-half points en route to the first 100-point performance of the season.
To the notes:
- The game was still in closer-than-it-should-be territory with Marquette nursing a seven-point lead at the six minute mark of the first half until Jae Crowder took over. Straight Away Jae drained a triple on each of the next three trips down the court, culminating in a four-point play opportunity when Jae got drilled after nailing the third three. (Alas, the free throw went begging.) The best part? The last two threes came when Jae trailed the team up court, a guard found him at the top of the key, and his man sagged off too far and let Jae get a wide-open look -- a difficult-to-defend move patented by Lazar Hayward which I've been begging Jae to use all year.
- I'm going to stop observing/hoping/praying/predicting that Darius Johnson-Odom has put his troubles behind him, despite the fact that DJO tickled the twine for 19 points on 5-7 shooting from three while grabbing six rebounds and handing out six assists tonight. I really want to write that it looks like he's turned the corner after the dynamite second-half performance vs. Centenary, and tonight's assault vs. MVSU. But I won't say that. Instead, I'll simply note: DJO was good tonight. Real good.
- Missing your two primary ballhandlers is usually a recipe for sloppiness, and Marquette did cough up the ball 11 times tonight (though four of those came from Jimmy Butler). That said, the passing tonight was marvelous: 26 assists on 34 made baskets, with DJO and Dwight Buycks leading the way with six dimes each and Vander Blue doing his part with five. Time and again, Marquette's guards would penetrate, draw the double team, and locate a wide-open teammate for a bunny.
- The rebounding, frustratingly, remains a serious issue, as Marquette needed a big second half to equal Mississippi Valley State in total rebounds and gave up eleven reloads to a team bereft of height. The main offender, once again: Chris Otule, who drew Coach Buzz's ire after surrendering (by my count) four consecutive offensive rebounds on a single possession. Otule only played 10 minutes tonight, and after that offensive-rebound debacle, he was promptly yanked and never again saw the floor.
- Erik Williams and Jamail Jones followed up their solid efforts from Saturday with more good things tonight: Williams got 14 minutes of run, scoring 8 points (with a couple coming on pretty jumpers; I still think his trigger is a little quick for a guy who's the third or fourth guy off the bench, but whatever) and pulling down four rebounds total, with three on the offensive end. For his part, Jones notched 5 points, 3 boards, an assist, and a steal; his shot was broke tonight (1-6, 0-2 from three) but he made his throws and was much, much better defensively.
- A quick post-game note: driving back to Estate de Rubie, I flipped on ESPN 540 to catch Coach Buzz's post-game interview -- but I was met with a garbled, static-y mess. It sounded like Homer was trying to talk over a popcorn popper machine, and when the sound didn't improve after five minutes, I gave up. Get it together, 540. No excuse for that.
- If you're like me, you thought one thing when you saw that Mississippi Valley State's uniforms read, simply, "VALLEY": wasn't that the name of the OTHER high school in 'Saved by the Bell'?
The envelopes, please:
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game Award: Hard to pass up Crowder's 22-point, 5-rebound, 3-assist effort, but tonight's POTG award goes to DJO: 7-12 from the field, 5-7 from three, 6 helpers, 6 boards, and no turnovers on a night when some of the ballhandling responsibility went to him.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Dwight Buycks wasn't hitting from the field -- 1-of-5 total, and 0-2 from three -- but he did all the little things that you need your point guard to do to succeed: distribute the ball (6 assists), take care of the ball (one turnover in 28 minutes), and hit your throws (5-5, including three straight to end the first half when he was fouled on a three-point attempt).
Up Next: CHRISTMAS. The boys head home for a well-earned holiday tomorrow morning; they'll take eight days off before battling the Vanderbilt Commodores next Wednesday.