It's the 2011 Bud Haidet Classic, and frankly I'm not even sure where to start with this game. The most important thing is that YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles downed another hyphenated commuter school to pick up their 11th win of the year. In doing so, they also completed the sweep of fellow Wisconsin teams, once again asserted their dominance over a school that uses some version of the acronym UW, and got the awful taste of that trip to Baton Rouge out of everyone's mouths. How they got there was not a beautiful thing to behold, but they got there.
This game was plagued from start to finish by confounding officiating decisions. Touch fouls, fouls away from the ball, blocking fouls that were clearly charges, charges that were clearly no-calls, and no-calls when guys were being hacked - every type of blown call you can conceive of made its way into this game. The result was a game that lacked any type of flow or rhythm, and a bunch of players that looked like they were ready to fight each other only because they aren't allowed to fight the officials.
Despite all of that Marquette led from wire to wire. Darius Johnson-Odom led the way in the first half with 10 points. The MU defense held UWM to just 29% shooting and forced 10 turnovers before the break. Unfortunately some less than stellar shooting, combined with a late barrage of whistles that went against the Golden Eagles allowed Milwaukee to get within 5 points before recess. And once again, MU had a game on their hands when it seemed like it should've already been a blowout.
After the break, Marquette looked like a determined bunch. They came out and scored the first 6 points of the half and created some space between themselves and the Panthers. The lead would never fall below 9 the rest of the way. With DJO saddled with fouls and sitting most of the 2nd half, Jae Crowder emerged from his slumber to score all 9 of his points down the stretch and help carry Marquette to the finish line. No one is going to show footage of this game when they're trying to illustrate the beauty of basketball, but I'm cool with winning ugly.
And the awards go to...
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game Award: Junior Cadougan has that look in his eye again. You know, that one he had while he was driving a dagger through West Virginia and punching Marquette's ticket to the Big Dance last March. Much like he did Monday night, while DJO and others were scuffling, Junior looked for his own offense against UWM and found it. He drilled a 3-pointer in the first minute of the game, and seemed to use that as a springboard for a very nice evening. He led all MU scorers with 15 points. He only handed out 1 assist, but grabbed 7 rebounds. He attacked the basket and finished with regularity, and even knocked in a few more jumpers. I am pleased with what I've seen out of Junior the past two games. It's not that I want him to have to score for us to win, but it's nice to know he can.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game Award: Jamil Wilson's importance to this team seems to grow with each game. It won't show up in the box score, but he played a major role in getting this win. He played excellent defense - using his length to really bother UWM's shooters (especially Tony Meier who tossed up several airballs while trying to get his shot up and over Jamil). He also grabbed 4 offensive rebounds. And rather than just charging back up with those rebounds, he kept his composure, settled things down and kicked the ball back out to reset the possession. He played like a veteran out there. Add in 8 points on 3-5 shooting, with a baseline jumper or two, and you have a line that Joe Fulce himself would be proud of.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: I have to be honest, I don't really recall there being anything smooth from this game. Maybe DJO's first half little hang and hit, floater in the lane is a good choice? Or maybe the smooth play of the game is how Buzz could coach the entirety of the game without punching an official in the mouth. I don't know. Feel free to add your suggestions, because I got nothing.
Up Next: This officially concludes the cupcake portion of the 2011 season. We have a week off for the holidays and then the Vanderbilt Commodores pay a visit to the Bradley Center. That goes down next Thursday night at 8:00pm CST. Until then, Merry Christmas everyone! I hope everyone finds what they wished for under the tree (like a miracle cure for Chris Otule's ACL)!