This is the game that every Marquette fan loves to win. And this year both squads really needed to get this win. Wisconsin had already dropped 3 games coming into Saturday's match-up and really wanted to get a road win against a tournament caliber opponent. Marquette had just been embarrassed by the Florida Gators in their only game against a true quality opponent, and was looking to get off the mat against their arch-nemeses. And for both teams, this was their last chance for a quality win before they got to conference play. So there was even more on the line this year than just the standard in-state bragging rights.
Marquette came firing out of the gates in the first half. They jumped up 7-0 in the early going, and let 7-2 at the first media break. With Vander Blue leading the charge, the Golden Eagles capitalized on 9 Badger turnovers and completely took control of the half. It was awesome to watch. Vander had the eye of the tiger, the building loud and going nuts, and the Badgers - playing without senior Mike Brusewitz - looked like a squad that was overmatched. It looked like this one might get out of hand.
But despite the way things were going (and they were going pretty well), the lead at half was just 14 points. One couldn't help but feel like MU could have, and even should have, been up by about 25. They had committed 6 turnovers of their own, shot 1-9 from the free throw line, and failed to completely cash in on the plethora of opportunities the Badgers had handed them. So while it was awesome to have the lead, you couldn't help but feel like the chance to put this one out of reach early had been missed.
And wouldn't you know it, the second half turned just that quick. Wisconsin began to corral their own misses AND draw Marquette fouls at an alarming rate. Marquette couldn't put together a decent offensive possession to save their lives. After dominating the first half, Vander Blue had yet to get anything going in the second. The first 10 minutes of the second half went as badly as one could have imagined. Jared Berggren drained an open 3-pointer with 10:30 to play and Bucky had gotten back to within 3 of the lead. The red shirts in attendance were at their loudest and it seemed like it might be time to reach for the panic button.
Luckily, Junior Cadougan played like a senior today. He scored the Golden Eagles' next 7 points and each basket saved what appeared to be another failed MU possession. The Badgers made enough buckets to keep the pressure on, but Junior's spurt seemed to right the ship and put Marquette back in the driver's seat. And when he converted a 3-point play (off of an AWESOME Juan Anderson rejection of a Sam Dekker dunk attempt), the good guys were back up by 11 and the MU faithful began to feel that this one was finally in the bag.
A few other thoughts:
- Points in the paint: Marquette - 36, Wisconsin - 10. Is it possible that Wisconsin has gotten even more dependent on the 3-ball?
- Free throws were pretty horrendous on both sides. Marquette shot just 41%, while Wisconsin shot a very UN-Wisconsin like 39%. Wisconsin's woes can be directly attributed to the struggles of Ryan Evans. Evans made just 1 of 9 attempts, and the one he made he banked in.
- Two huge plays came on blocked shots late in the game. The first was a Davante Gardner rejection of Jared Berggren, from behind, when it looked like Berggren was going to have a wide open lay-up and cut the lead back down to 4. The other was the aforementioned block by Juan Anderson. It was a stone cold denial of Dekker, who was trying to go up for a 2-handed slam along the baseline.
- The cherry on top of the game was a homerun pass from Blue to Cadougan for a lay-up, and one. As Warrior Brad pointed out afterwards, this is the second straight year that the Badgers gave up a play like that to Marquette. Remember Todd Mayo's capper dunk at the end of last year's game?
- Buzz Williams rocked a black sweater on the sidelines Saturday as an homage to the late Rick Majerus.
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: I strongly considered splitting the Crowder Award today. Vander Blue's first half was fantastic. He truly looked like the best player on the floor in this game. But the Badgers made it their mission to make someone else beat them in the second half, and Junior Cadougan was that someone. Junior scored 14 of his career high 18 in the second half, and almost single-handedly prevented this one from getting away from MU.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: I just can't get enough of that block by Juan Anderson. That was awesome, so he's my guy today.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: There were lots of awesome plays in this one, but the one that people will be talking about FOREVER belonged to Davante himself. In the first half, he took a long rebound, dribbled out of the crowd and then just didn't stop. He went coast to coast, past Berggren (who looked like he was just waiting for Davante to stop), and laid it in. It was fantastic.
Up Next: A visitor from the MEAC comes up the BMOHBC next Saturday. Savannah St will be in town to take on YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles at 1:00 on December 15th. See you all at the game.