The early season cupcake feast continued Monday night as Marquette dismantled the Spartans of Norfolk State, 99-68.
While the final scores may look similar, this game wasn't quite the beat-down that the season opener against Mount St. Mary's was. I wouldn't go so far as to say the Spartans made a game of it, but they did enough to make sure Marquette couldn't take the second half off.
Norfolk State kept within 5-7 points of MU through much of the first half. They were actually within 5 with 5 minutes to play in the half, thanks to a hot shooting streak from beyond the arc. But the Golden Eagles' offense, led by Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom and Vander Blue, woke up at that point and managed to push the lead to 11 by intermission.
In the second half, the Marquette scoring binge continued. At the 12 minute mark, Junior Cadougan hit 2 free throws to extend the lead to 25 points, and it looked like Norfolk State had run up the white flag. Marquette seemed to let up on the gas a little bit at that point. Some of the major players went to the bench, and some creative lineups got a little floor time. But it turned out that white flag was just a clever ruse, and the Spartans weren't actually done yet. Before you could say "what the hell does MEAC stand for," it was a 12 point game with 7 minutes to play.
It wouldn't last. Buzz Williams' crew, again led by the seniors Jae and DJO, put the hammer down over the last 7 minutes. They outscored Norfolk St 25-6 over that stretch and put this one away.
Jump for Mr. K's game thoughts and awards.
- Vander Blue was the first ever contestant in the Jerel McNeal Stat Stuffer Challenge. Blue finished with 14 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 1 block, for a JMSSC composite score of 25. So if you had 25, you are a winner. And while we're on the topic of Vander Blue, it should be noted that he looked very good in this game. He had the ball in his hands a lot, made some nifty passes, and used his athleticism to get to the rack seemingly whenever he wanted. Hell, he even hit a 3-pointer.
- Jae Crowder and DJO are going to the heavy lifting for Marquette this year, for sure. They scored 25 and 24 points, respectively.
- Norfolk State boasted the MEAC Preseason Player of the Year, 6'10" senior center Kyle O'Quinn. O'Quinn was not a factor in this game. He played 20 minutes, scored 4 points on 1-5 shooting, committed 3 turnovers and fouled out with about 12 minutes to play.
- In an interesting lineup move, Marquette played a good portion of the second half without either Chris Otule or Davante Gardner on the floor. Jamil Wilson played as the "big man" with the other starters. That could be a lineup to watch going forward.
- Todd Mayo can score the basketball. He showed that tonight with 12 points in 15 minutes. Most notably, Mayo drilled triples on back to back possessions during the MU second half run to finish the Spartans off. He had a look at a third straight 3-ball, but that one didn't go down.
Player of the Game: He scored early, he scored often. He scored inside, he scored outside. When MU needed a bucket tonight, Jae Crowder got it for them. The Absolut Weapon led all scorers with 25 points, shot 10-15 from floor (2-5 from distance), made all three of his free throws, and grabbed 10 rebounds for his third career double-double.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I will give the nod to Derrick Wilson tonight. I'm beginning to see what people were talking about when they raved about Wilson's abilities as a defender. He gets into dudes' shirts. I like that. Wilson played 18 minutes tonight, didn't attempt a shot, but grabbed 5(!) boards and dished out 2 dimes.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: Davante nabs his own award tonight, with a little help from his friends. The big fella got out in transition and was rewarded with a nice feed from Vander (who himself had gotten an outlet pass from Crowder) and flipped it up and in, all while drawing O'Quinn's fourth foul. The nice pass and the big man running the floor make this the play of the game for me.
Up Next: Marquette heads down to the Virgin Islands to take on Winthrop in the opening round of the 2011 Paradise Jam. They'll tip it up at 7:30 central time, Friday 11/18. Let's hope the boys don't have too much fun in the sun and come home with a trophy.