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No. 21/19 Marquette 95, Winthrop 73: Your IMAGINARIUM Recap

If you're following us on Twitter, you know that nobody was able to see any of Marquette's game against Winthrop last night, due to the facts that (1) the game wasn't televised on an American television outlets; and (2) we're too cheap to pay the $4.99 for a crappy Internet stream. But we've got some highly-placed sources at the Paradise Jam, and they insist that the following is exactly what happened yesterday.

In hindsight: we probably should've recognized that this one was going to be a little weird when the pregame warmup music for Marquette's game against Winthrop was the entire A-side of Bad Religion's Into the Unknown.  But YOUR Golden Eagles, in their first venture outside the friendly confines of the Bradley Center this season, managed to overcome several seemingly-overwhelming obstacles en route to a dominating 95-73 victory over the other, adjective-less Eagles.

On paper, this game didn't look like it would be close at all, but we didn't realize that the game would be played not only on an international-style court (which doesn't make a lot of sense, since the tournament is in the United States Virgin Islands, but whatevs), but also pursuant to Rock 'n Jock rules and Pirates of the Caribbean rules, which (according to my sources) rewards the team that's able to capture the most pieces of eight before halftime.

Winthrop used those unorthodox rules to full advantage in the first 20 minutes of yesterday's contest, sinking a 25-point basket and discovering a couple of Spanish dollars hidden under a Gatorade cup, which forced Marquette to attempt its free throws on a 12-inch rim.  And to top it all off, Winthrop guard Andre Jones was replaced in the lineup by a Mini MechaGodzilla, which, apparently, wasn't a violation of NCAA rules because Jones designed the cyborg-lizard by himself.

But Marquette would overcome on this night, thanks to a prodigious scoring output from Vander Blue, who eschewed use of the R'nJ bonus basket and scored 26 the conventional way, on 7-9 shooting from the floor and 10-13 from the free throw line and, in an impressive display of electrical engineering, managed to deactivate Jones' MechaGodzilla. When all was said and done, Blue had the highest scoring game of his career, Marquette had its third 90-plus point scoring game of the year, and Buzz Williams got Dan Cortese's autograph. Not a bad night, all in all.

Let's get a bit more serious, after the jump.

  • As we noted in yesterday's preview, this game featured teams on opposite ends of the tempo spectrum: Marquette was coming off an 81-possession blitzkrieg against Norfolk State, while Winthrop was fresh off a 57-possession slogfest against Virginia. As good teams will do, Marquette was the squad that set the pace in this game, making Winthrop play at MU's preferred speed: the game ended at 71 possessions as MU put up another stellar showing on offense, including a preposterous 67% eFG%.
  • The defensive end was another story in the first half, though, as Marquette ceded a 53% eFG% to a team that came in with a 42.5% eFG% on the young season. Things picked up in the second half quite a bit, though, as Winthrop regressed to its season average (42% eFG% in the second half) and wound up at 42% overall from the floor for the game.
  • It was something of a mixed bag for point guard Junior Cadougan, who continued his impressive start to the year with six assists but also turned the rock over four times for a 1.50 assist-to-turnover ratio. But Junior managed to stick a couple of mid-range jumpers in the game, so this one falls in the "more good than bad" file.
  • On the other side of the coin: Marquette used a smaller lineup for most of the game, as Chris Otule played 16 minutes (productive though they were: 11 points and 7 boards is just fine, big fella) and Davante Gardner got 17 (four points, four rebounds, four turnovers [eek], two blocks). Such a lineup seems custom-made for Jamil Wilson, who's got the athleticism to stay on the floor with the smaller, quicker players -- and, sure enough, Jamil saw 19 minutes of action. And yet Son of Plastic Man only managed a couple of points and a couple of boards, which I guess qualifies as a bit of a bummer.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom has quickly ascended to Jimmy Butler In His Senior Year levels, and I couldn't be any happier to type those words: at this point, you can pencil DJO in for 15-20 points and a handful of assists and rebounds. After the fits and starts that DJO suffered through in the earlygoing last season, this is a most welcome development.

The awards, then?

Jimmy Butler Player of the Game: I'm of two minds on Vander Blue's impressive 26-point outburst last night: on the one hand, I remember that Vander had similar showings against non-conference patsies last year. On the other hand: Vander was scoring from everywhere yesterday: from three-point range (2-for-2), from the line (10-13), attacking the glass, from mid-range. When Van was on last year, it was primarily because his man couldn't stay in front of him and he was free to slash to the tin at his leisure. That wasn't the case last night. We can build on this.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I'm not right about things very often (just ask Mrs. Q), so when it looks like I got one right, expect to hear about it: Todd Mayo is making my prediction that he'll earn the most playing time of any of the freshman look pretty good right now, as Quatro de Mayo once again provided instant offense off the pine: three triples (3-of-4 from deep on the night), 4-of-6 overall, and a couple of helpers in 18 solid minutes. I could get used to that.

Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: With Marquette holding a somewhat-tenuous 41-37 lead in the final seconds before intermission, Vander Blue took the wind out of Winthrop's sails with the rarest of birds in basketball: Blue drilled a three-pointer while absorbing contact from Winthrop's Joab Jerome, then calmly sank the and-1 throw to complete the four-point play and give Marquette a comfortable eight-point cushion at the half.

Up Next: The Golden Eagles take the day off to enjoy the St. Thomas scenery before battling Mississippi tomorrow night. Ole Miss somehow managed to clip Drake in its opening game despite shooting 32% from the field and missing half of its 32 free throw attempts.

Until then.