The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders were the cupcake d'jour at the Bradley Center Tuesday night. Fun fact of the day: A&M-Corpus Christi is called The Islanders because the university is in fact located on an island. That would be Ward Island, down there on the Gulf of Mexico. Interesting, right? Ok maybe not. But the game, now that was interesting.... As long as you're into lopsided Marquette wins of course. Luckily for me, that's exactly what I'm into.
There were some that thought this game had the potential to be a trap game for Marquette. A&M-CC had played some tough competition already this year and was not likely to be intimidated. Couple that with the fact that the Badger game was looming just 4 days away, and there was a chance that the good guys might get caught looking ahead tonight. Luckily, the only people looking past the Islanders were the fans (present company included).
Just like Saturday, Marquette never trailed in this one. They broke out a little 1-2-2 press and it produced results right away. Corpus Christi was turning the ball over at an alarming rate - 13 times in the first half. The opportunistic Golden Eagles were converting those TOs into buckets early and often. By the under 12 TV timeout, Marquette already had a 21 point advantage. The defense was relentless in the first half. The Islanders had stretches of 6 minutes, 4 minutes and 4 minutes where they were held without a field goal. They ended the half with just 17 points. Reggie Smith, Vander Blue, Jimmy Butler and company were very active defensively and they put this baby out of reach early.
The downside of tonight came with about 13 minutes left in the 2nd half. After going up for a rebound Joe Fulce, landed, then went down, and went down hard. He was on the court for a few minutes in obvious pains. We were able to hear him shouting from our seats in the upper deck because the whole house went silent when they saw Joe was down. He eventually was helped back to the locker room, but didn't put any weight on his left leg. In case you're wondering, yes that it is his left knee that's been giving him trouble all season. Comments from Buzz and others after the game did not sound overly optimistic. It sounds like it's the knee again, and it sounds like it might be bad this time. The injury to Fulce definitely cast a pall over an otherwise marvelous game for Marquette. Obviously losing Fulce is going to be tough for the team. More importantly, you hate to see that happen to a kid in his senior year, especially after working to get himself back on the floor. We're keeping our fingers crossed for ya Joe. Hope it's not too serious and you can bounce back quick man.
Some other items of interest:
- No Dwight Buycks tonight. He was held out due to a sprained ankle, and from the sounds of it this was not just precautionary. Coach Buzz said Buycks could not have gone tonight, but they hope to have him back for Madison on Saturday.
- Davante Gardner made his return tonight after missing the past two games with that sore left shoulder. He played 15 minutes and looked ok. At one point you could see he was grimacing and grabbing at the shoulder after getting fouled under the basket. Gardner scored 10 points and grabbed 3 boards in 15 minutes.
- The press was obviously a point of emphasis this week and it was deployed with great success tonight. The 13 first half turnovers, and 22 total, were a good indicator of that. I'm not sure what the Points off TO stats look like, but I suspect they are impressive as well. The weak link, however, seemed to be on the back end. If the Islanders were able to get by the ball hawks on the wings, the bigs (Otule in particular) were not overly effective in protecting the rim and forcing the ball back out. On the rare occasions that A&M-CC broke the press they got lay-ups. Despite that fact, look for the press to be used against Bucky this weekend.
- I'm going to start calling Jae Crowder "Straight Away Jae". Crowder knocked down two 3-pointers in five attempts tonight - both from the top of the key. That's his spot, the farther he moves toward the corner the less effective he seems to be.
- Will the real Darius Johnson-Odom please stand up. DJO turned in another rather pedestrian performance tonight - 12 points, on 4-9 from the field, 1-4 from 3, in 24 minutes. In his defense though, he seemed to be heating up in the second half, but the game was so far out of reach that he sat for a good portion of the last 10 minutes. I'd really like to see that guy we saw against UWM again. Maybe he's available this Saturday?
- This was the most complete effort I've seen from Marquette this season. The defense was good, the rotations were there, the offense was clicking, we got points in transition as well as the half court. It was as close to the total package as the team has been this year, and it couldn't come at a better time.
The evenings awards:
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game: Vander Blue looked like he is getting himself ready for Saturday's intra-state showdown. Blue stuffed the stat sheet tonight: A career high, and team leading, 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. He was an integral part of the defense that really decided this game.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Reggie Smith got the start again at point guard, and with Buycks sidelined he and Junior Cadougan split the minutes almost 50-50. Reggie didn't score a point tonight but he did notch 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 5 steals. He was a turnover creating fool in the first half. He was all over the place: guarding ball-handlers, deflecting passes, and doubling from off the ball. That's the stuff that we look for when handing the Undersung Eagle Award.
Up next: For those of you that are checking us out after just coming out of a coma: First of all, good morning. And just so you're aware, you're Marquette Golden Eagles will be taking on their most hated nemeses, the Wisconsin Badgers in the Bradley Center this coming Saturday at 1:30 pm CST. If you're unclear as to how or why they are hated I suggest you check out here, and here, and here. And if that's not enough for you, I suggest you stay tuned. This is Badger Hate Week, and it's only Wednesday.
For the rest of you: You already knew all that, so you may skip ahead.