Coming into today's game against Northern Colorado, I didn't expect to learn very much about YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles: knowing that Northern Colorado didn't have the height to exploit MU's suddenly shorthanded front line, that Marquette was coming off a week-long layoff, and that the Bears aren't shy about sending their opponents to the line, I figured we were in for a disjointed affair where Marquette dominated inside the arc and shot a whole bunch of free throws.
And then Northern Colorado forward/center Mike Proctor limped off the floor seven seconds into the game after twisting his ankle on the opening tip.
And then Marquette was in the bonus halfway through the first half, and, if memory serves, in the superbonus with 10 minutes left in the second, on its way to taking a whopping 36 free throws for the game.
And then I got home around six o'clock because the game -- which wound up a 93-72 victory for your Golden Eagles -- took about two and a half hours to complete with the paid-per-whistle officiating crew calling 49 total fouls.
In sum: yup. That's about what I expected.
This game was decided early, and the biggest story came before the contest even started, when Buzz Williams -- who has apparently turned into some odd amalgamation of the principal in The Breakfast Club and the dad from 10 Things I Hate About You -- suspended star guard Darius Johnson-Odom for the game because of an unspecified violation of team rules. It's a troubling pattern, coming on the heels of Junior Cadougan's one-game timeout for his own unspecified violation of team rules two weeks ago, but we'll talk more about that tomorrow.
Let's focus here on the kids that did play -- and, by and large, played very well -- tonight: Todd Mayo took DJO's spot in the lineup and, but for the fact that The Spread shoots with his right hand, you might've confused him with DJO today. Mayo put the team on his back with a eight straight points in the opening minutes of the game, and when the halftime buzzer sounded, Todd had already tied his career high in points with 14, on the strength of a torrid 4-4 performance from three-point range.
Taking its cue from The Spread's dynamic performance, MU quickly shook off any rust lingering from finals week: shooting 56% inside the arc (9-16) and 50% from deep (5-10) before intermission and limiting Northern Colorado to 31.2% shooting in the first half, Marquette appeared to have things well in hand with a 47-30 lead at the break. The Bears threw a scare into MU when a 15-3 run early in the second half (and an absurd performance from wing Tate Unruh, who put up 25 points on 5-8 shooting from three) trimmed Marquette's lead to 9. But a steady parade to the line and 94% free throw shooting in the second half restored order to the proceedings and got MU to 10-0 on the season.
A few more notes and the awards, after the jump.
- Todd Mayo is going to grab most of the headlines with his 34-minute, 22-point performance, and he deserves every nice thing said about him tonight. But The Spread wasn't the only one running hot on the offensive end of the court: Jae Crowder hit four of his five two-point attempts (while struggling to a 2-8 performance from beyond the arc) and five-of-seven throws to finish with 19 points and 11 boards. Vander Blue attacked the paint whenever he wanted and was rewarded for his effort with 11 trips to the line (he made eight) en route to an 18-point performance. And Davante Gardner had his standard-issue efficient performance: Big Smooth used his herky-jerks and his bob-n-weaves to draw foul after foul on Northern Colorado's bigs, and he finished 8-9 from the line and 3-4 from the floor in 20 minutes.
- The defensive side of the court was a tale of two halves, though: after holding Northern Colorado to an eFG% of 34.4% in the first half while blocking four shots and racking up five steals, things got a bit sideways for MU in the second half. Tate Unruh was unconscious from long range, but you'd think (hope?) we could draw up and execute a defense that can stop the one guy who's feeling it. And thanks to six second-half threes, the Bears had an eFG% of 58.3% in the second half and would up with an eFG% of 44.6% for the game. Marquette more than held its own on the glass with a 43-26 rebounding advantage and limited the Bears to nine offensive boards, but the shooting numbers -- and the number of uncontested threes -- after halftime qualify as a concern, relatively speaking.
- Hey: Juan Anderson, you guys. A little more than a week after it was reported that Anderson would miss three to four weeks with a shoulder injury suffered in practice, the freshman forward got himself eight minutes of run tonight. Coach Buzz said on the post-game show that Anderson was cleared by the doctors just before the game and that, because of all the time he's missed, Juan has no idea what he's doing on either end of the floor, but that said: with the bench precariously thin and the officials whistle-happy, it was good to see No. 10 get some minutes.
- Crowder got himself a double-double tonight, and Junior Cadougan wasn't far from one of his own: spearheading the attack that saw Marquette notch assists on 23 of its 28 baskets, Junior ended the day with 9 points and 9 assists, and hit his first three-pointer of the season for good measure. We should probably also mention that Cadougan, Derrick Wilson, Mayo, and Blue turned in an impressive effort on Northern Colorado's leading scorer, Paul Garnica, who finished without scoring a point in 11 unproductive minutes.
The awards? Comin' right up:
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game Award: For a while there, it look like Todd Mayo might put up 30 tonight, but, perhaps predictably, his legs got a bit wobbly in the second half as his minutes added up. Still: a 7-15 performance from the field, a 4-4 showing from the line, five boards, four dimes, two steals, and one beat not missed in subbing for DJO is more than enough to take home the JMFB Award today.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Today's was the first game I was able to see in person this year, and I was struck by how often Jamil Wilson was directing traffic during his time on the floor: he was getting people in position for the press, finding open spaces on offense -- hell, he even took the throws after Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill got hit with a tech in the second half. Point is: perhaps more important than Jamil's 11 points and four rebounds today is the fact that Buzz appears to trust him. I think it's going to be tough to take him off the floor as the season continues.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: At this point, we might have to create a new category for the Vander Blue Dunk of the Game. Today's submission from No. 2: a tasty backcut leading to a two-handed hammer on a perfect lob from Cadougan to give Marquette a twelve point lead with 12 minutes to play in the first half.
Up Next: After this past week's hibernation, it's a quick turnaround for the Golden Eagles, who fly to Baton Rouge tonight to begin preparations for Monday night's game against Louisiana State.