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Chopped! Vanderbilt 74, No. 14/13 Marquette 57

On paper, this looked like a mismatch.

On one side, you had Chef Jason Zukas, a man who has never been to culinary school (just ask him, he'll tell you) but nevertheless pulled himself up by the bootstraps to become an executive chef in New York. On the other side, you had the classically trained Chef Michael Siry, a corporate executive chef who can pickle a daikon blindfolded while making a delightful hollandaise sauce sans cutlery.

And then, when they opened up their mystery boxes and discovered they had to work with sea urchin, and Chef Jason had the look of a man who'd been handed a human foot and asked to make it into a casserole, you figured: this is going to get ugly. Dude had never even seen a sea urchin, let alone cooked with it, while Chef Michael seemed to have a recipe for a delicious sea urchin aioli committed to memory. This is going to be a bloodbath, you figured.

But that, as they say, is why they play the games. ...

I'm sorry, what?

You were looking for a recap of the slicing and dicing suffered by YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles last night at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores? My mistake, friends. I thought you came for analysis of the Chopped: Champions tournament that re-aired on Food Network last night. Sorry about that.

So. Well. Do you want the bad news first, or the really bad news first?

In five words: Marquette got pantsed last night. Let's count the reasons why:

  • Davante Gardner picked up two fouls in the first five minutes of the game and, when he managed to get in in the second half, looked thoroughly uninterested in the proceedings. He finished with two points, two boards, and three fouls in five minutes.
  • Junior Cadougan got embarrassed by the weakest link in Vandy's starting five, point guard Brad Tinsley, who finished with 11 points and 8 assists. Junior had two points, one assist, and three turnovers in 21 unproductive minutes.
  • After a series of encouraging showings, we saw Vander Blue Version 1.0: Teh Old Badness last night. Vander was 1-7 from the field, couldn't finish around the tin, had three turnovers, and lost playing time to Todd Mayo.
  • Jeffery Taylor (19 points), John Jenkins (14 points on four-of-eight shooting from deep) and Lance Goulbourne (13 points, 16 rebounds) probably saw more resistance in the pregame shootaround than they did from Marquette's defense, which -- predictably -- continued its maddening habit of doubling (or even tripling) on every paint touch, leaving wide-open shooters and wide-open driving lanes all over the floor.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom hasn't been right since Coach Buzz suspended him for a game for violating team rules, and last night was no exception. DJO was 5-15 from the floor, 1-6 from distance, and probably suffered whiplash after all the (unsuccessful) headfakes he threw at Vandy defenders.
  • Jae Crowder had the best night for any Marquette player. He missed six free throws and was 4-13 from the floor. That's how bad it was.

And so it was. Depending on your perspective, Marquette either suffered through one of the more embarrassing "just one of those nights" in recent memory, or had its warts laid bare for the world to see. With the Big East season at hand, the nice part is: we'll know one way or the other in about ten days.

Let's put a bow on this turd and hand out some awards, after the jump.

Jimmy Butler Player of the Game: Perhaps I'm overstating how much Marquette misses Chris Otule on defense, but when Festus Ezeli gets 8 points and 7 rebounds on one leg in 17 minutes, and Vandy is able to attack the lane at its leisure because our guards can't stay in front of anyone and there's no one in the paint to deter would-be drivers, and we give up 10 three-pointers, in large part, because Vandy can get a paint touch followed by an easy rotation to an open shooter whenever it wants ... I don't think I am. We miss you, Big Fella. Get some stem cells in that knee and rescue us.

Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: With Junior Cadougan woefully ineffective, Derrick Wilson got 19 minutes of run last night and responded with 5 points (including one on an impressive take to the tin), three steals, a couple of offensive rebounds, and the look of a young fella who gave a poop. That was encouraging.

Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: There aren't any contenders from Marquette's end for the Smoothie, so I'll go with Jeff Taylor's thunderous one-handed dunk on a breakaway early in the second half. I don't have the official measurements, but I believe JT's hand was about 14-and-a-half feet above the rim before he threw that one down. Goodness.

Up next: The Villanova Wildcats, who got blown out late by West Virginia in their Big East opener two days ago, come to Milwaukee on New Year's Day. Will Marquette's defense be the cure that ails the 'Cats?