I'm becoming convinced that Marquette head coach Buzz Williams is conducting some kind of elaborate psychology experiment. It's the only explanation that I can come up with to explain Marquette going into a double digit hole in the first half by allowing a team to get off to a hot start yet again. Three pointers from Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright and 5 unanswered buckets in the paint, including 6 straight points from Dion Dixon, led to the Bearcats racking up a 16-4 lead and Buzz calling timeout at the 15:19 mark, before there could even be a stoppage for the under 16 media time out.
Whatever it was that the Marquette coaching staff said in that huddle, it worked. Marquette scored the next 8 points of the game to cut the Cincy lead to 4 over the next 3 minutes. That's when the MU defense REALLY kicked into gear. Cincinnati averages a little more than 10 turnovers a game. They had NINE in the first half, all coming after that 16-4 lead, which largely explains how Marquette ended the half with a 12 point lead. MU had 16 points off of turnovers and 17 points on fast breaks.
So what changed in that huddle? Did Buzz and his staff make some kind of adjustment? Are they intentionally coming out in some kind of dummy defense to see if their opponents are going to run the offense that they're expecting to see before unleashing the game plan? Buzz likes to say "we have to worry about us" and "we have to play like us" an awful lot, so I have to think it's not that. Why can't Marquette start out with the kind of defensive intensity that they displayed for 85% of this game? I keep picturing former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson watching Marquette games on TV and shouting, "NO! FORTY minutes of hell! Not 35!"
Answers to any of these questions can be sent to my email that's listed at the bottom of the page.
Let's hit the jump, talk some brief notes, stats, and awards.
- The "slim chance" of Davante Gardner playing that Buzz talked about during his media availability earlier in the week ended up as "no chance" as Ox spent the game on the bench in plain clothes. I said this at the time, but it's still true: I'd much rather get through this game without him and give him extra time to get him healthy to go against UConn's Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond on Saturday. Thumbs up to Ox for remembering to wear a gold shirt, though.
- JAMAIL JONES, Y'ALL. The little used sophomore forward canned two threes 30 seconds apart on either end of a Cheikh Mbodj turnover to shove MU's lead from 2 to 8 late in the first half. Jones came to Marquette with a reputation of being a long range sniper, but hasn't fulfilled that promise, going without a made 3 since November 28th against Jacksonville. Hopefully making both of his attempts here leads to a confidence in his shot and much more regular shooting from Jones.
- I'm preaching to the choir here, but: It continues to be amazing to watch Darius Johnson-Odom constantly adjust his body while going to the rim. He always gets himself enough speed and height on the jump to give him the maximum opportunity to make the best shot when he's expecting and/or receiving contact. His body control in the air is, in a word, FILTHY.
- Maybe it was just my perspective from my seats that made it look this way, but I want to point this out. At the 13:49 mark of the 2nd half, Jamil Wilson grabbed what would be described as a hustle rebound. What made it unique is that it was on a free throw. Wilson decided that nothing was stopping him from getting to the ball to secure it for Marquette, and he succeeded. You see this play regularly in a basketball game, but not when there's 6 guys standing and waiting for the ball to come off the rim.
- Rebounding margin is a stupid statistic. A pure look at who grabbed more caroms does not tell you anything about the game. I present to you Exhibit A: Cincinnati outrebounded Marquette in this game by a margin of 42-29. What good does 13 more rebounds do you when you lose by 17? Or get outscored by 29 in the last 35 minutes of the game?
eFG%: MU - 62.5% Cincy - 45.5%
TO%: MU - 9.9% <-- NOT A TYPO Cincy - 19.4%
OReb%: MU - 27.6% Cincy - 50%
FT Rate: MU - 40% Cincy - 38.8%
Points Per Possession: MU - 1.35 Cincy - 1.08
Jimmy Butler Player Of The Game: DJO's 23-2-5 line is a solid candidate, but you have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat out Jae Crowder. 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists (more on this later), a block and - SURPRISE - 3 steals. Thus begins the official "Crowder Is First Team All Big East Or We Riot" campaign.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle Of The Game: I was going to make a big deal about Vander Blue's all around game here, but screw it: Jamail Jones made both his threes, grabbed two rebounds, handed out an assist and blocked a shot while chipping in 15 minutes with Davante Gardner not available to play.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play Of The Game: My choice for this award didn't start out very smooth. I'm not sure where the pass came from, but at about the 16:50 mark of the second half, someone tried to hit Vander Blue under the rim with a pass. Because Blue was cutting around a defender, he couldn't come up with the ball and it went past him. The ball started bouncing towards the end line as everyone came to a stop. Everyone except Jae Crowder, that is. The Absolut Weapon realized the ball wasn't going to go out of bounds quickly and bolted to snag the loose ball and then rifled it to a WIDE OPEN DJO for three. Marquette led by 14 after the basket and Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin was forced to call time out to try to get things moving in a good direction for his squad.
Up Next: Marquette gets the long layoff until Saturday and a trip to Hartford to take on Connecticut.