There is no such thing as an easy road win in the Big East. That seems to be especially true when it's the first road game of the conference season. The past 3 seasons Marquette has dropped their first road game in conference. But that task becomes a little easier when your first Big East roadie comes against Rutgers. We don't mean this as any disrespect to the good folks at the State University of New Jersey. The RAC can be a tough place to play sometimes. But when you compare that with, I don't know, Saturday's game at The Oakland Zoo in Pittsburgh, I'd much rather be playing Rutgers while trying to work out some of those road game jitters.
Marquette got out of the gates quickly in this one, just as many of us had hoped they would. They hit their first 6 shots from the field and scored 15 points in the first five minutes of the game. It looked like MU might run Rutgers right out of the gym in the early going. But Rutgers got back into with the aid of some hot 3-point shooting and a whole bunch of Marquette turnovers - 10 in the first half alone. They were never able to take the lead though, as Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler combined to score 33 first half points and the Golden Eagles led 37-30 at the break.
In the second half DJO stole the show. Tonight he looked like the DJO that we came to know last season, and the guy that was projected to be one of the breakout performers in the Big East this season. This kid is absolutely flammable. He caught fire tonight and scored 15 of his game high 29 points in the second. Twelve of those points came between the 11 minute mark - after Rutgers had gotten within four - and the 6 minute mark. At that point Marquette had pushed the lead back out to nine, and seemed to have the matter in hand. Rutgers hung around the rest of the way but was never able to get closer than seven.
Aside from DJO's jumpers this game wasn't exactly pretty, but it's a road win in the Big East and Marquette is 2-0. Bring on Pitt!
- I don't know what Dwight Buycks did to get himself in the doghouse, but he didn't see a whole lot of action tonight. Buycks played just 11 minutes, scored zero points and notched just one assist. Junior Cadougan saw the lion's share of time at the point, with mixed results (0 points, 8 assists, 1 turnover).
- Remember how well we rebounded against West Virginia? Well this was nothing like that. The final rebounding tally shows Rutgers grabbing just one more board (28-27) but those numbers evened out dramatically late in the second half as Rutgers was scrambling to get back in the game. At one point, midway through the second, Rutgers held a 24-18 advantage with 11 on the offensive end.
- Jimmy Butler: Silent Assassin. Jimmy had another solid effort that no one even realized he was having while it was happening. Just another ho-hum, quiet 16 points and 6 boards for Jimmy. He made a couple of big jumpers, in late shot clock situations, that were huge.
- Jae Crowder followed up Saturday's blow-up game with another very good night. He scored 15 points and grabbed 7 boards, while shooting 6-12 from the field and 3-6 from distance. I don't think there's any question that Jae is going to be a focal point of the offense from here on out.
- Free throw shooting was a double-edged sword in this game. On the good side: Marquette enjoyed a 16 point advantage from the charity stripe over Rutgers, 20-4. On the bad side: It took 32 trips to the line to hit those 20 throws (62.5% if you're scoring at home). To make it worse they only hit 6 of 12 in the last 2:30 of the game, with the Scarlet Knights down just seven. Guys not named Jimmy Butler were a fantastically awful 2-8 over that stretch. If Rutgers had been in the miracle making mood tonight, they would've had their chance because of our poor free throw shooting in the last two minutes.
I'm in the giving mood tonight, let's pass out some awards:
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game: DJO. Now this is what we've been waiting for. His 3-point stroke has returned (5-8 on tonight from distance). His confidence is there. Hell, he even got the ball tonight on a 2 on 1 break and passed. He's got it all working. He was a man on fire tonight. And I mean that like NBA Jam, "He's on FIRE!!!" I'm fairly certain there were actual flames coming from the ball when he shot it in the second half.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Conventional wisdom would point to Cadougan, and his 8 assists and 1 turnover, as a perfect candidate for this honor. But if you've been paying attention, you know that we're anything but conventional. And if you knew that, then you also know that around here we loves us some Joe Fulce. So this award goes to Joe in honor of his NBA range 3-pointer that he drilled in the first half. That was a big bucket. Rutgers had gotten within two, and almost completely erased Marquette's hot start, when Fulce pulled up from the top of the key and touched nothing but net.
Play of the Game: Chris Otule's fast break. If you missed it, I don't know that any description I give will do it justice. Let's just say it involves Big Chris jumping in the passing lane, stealing the ball and then going "point-center" down the court. It only resulted in an offensive foul on Otule, but the awesomeness is unmatched by anything else.
Up Next: Marquette is just gonna hang out on the East Coast for a couple days and then head on over to Pittsburgh, PA to take on the No. 5 Pitt Panthers, Saturday at 1:00 pm CST. This is the first game of the meat of the Big East schedule. Of the next 8 games, 7 are against teams currently ranked in the top 25. Plenty of opportunities for resume building wins, starting with Pitt on Saturday. See you then