Line up the superlatives to describe Jae Crowder right now. He's earned all of them. Jae went all "Manimal" again, this time on the good folks from The State University of New Jersey. His 27 points led all scorers, and also led YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles to a 82-65 victory over Rutgers Wednesday at the Bradley Center.
It was Crowder's partner in crime, Darius Johnson-Odom, that lit up the scoreboard in the first half. DJO went off for 19 points in the first, on 7-12 shooting and 3-5 from three. Jae wasn't too far behind, with 13 points of his own before intermission. Marquette shot a blistering 55.5% in the first half. This was aided, in no small part, by 14 Scarlet Knight turnovers that led to a lot of transition opportunities. Even though the largest lead was only 15 points, the game felt like a blowout. Marquette was in control from the word go, and showed no signs of relinquishing that.
In the second half, DJO cooled off significantly (2 points, 1-3 from the floor). But The Absolut Weapon never broke stride. He continued to score, rebound, pass and defend like he was the best player on the floor. When Rutgers capitalized on MU's apparent coasting in the second half, and got within 6 points with 12 minutes to play, it was a tip in by Crowder that started the 14-4 run that would put the game away. During that stretch Jae scored 8 points, grabbed 3 boards, and threw in a block and an assist just to round things out. That is man's work, friends. Give Rutgers credit for hanging around, but in the end Marquette just had them outgunned.
If you're feeling up to it, jump for a few more thoughts and some awards.
- My line on DJO has always been, "If he ever puts two good halves together, he's capable of going for 40 on someone." I thought tonight was going to be that night. When he had 19 at half, I was hoping that he would stay hot and put together a career night. As it turned out, it was just your standard issue, "Combustible" DJO - which I will still gladly take any night.
- Besides DJO and Jae, the only other player to score in double figures was Vander Blue. Van scored 10 points, despite shooting just 2-10 from the floor. What was left of the scoring was parceled out between the rest of the fellas pretty evenly.
- I couldn't make the game tonight, so I got treated to the ESPN Regional broadcast team. And during the game, they kept talking about how fast Marquette was, and how quickly they go from defense to offense. I couldn't have said it better myself. The quickness that we have been able to change ends of the floor, has been amazing to me and a huge reason for our success this season.
- Turnovers help that cause as well. Before tonight's game, Ken Pom ranked Marquette 21st overall (2nd in the Big East) in defensive turnover percentage. A consistent trend of late has been teams turning the ball over more often than normal against MU. Tonight, Rutgers came in averaging 14 TOs per game, and proceeded to up that to 21. Folks, I think that qualifies as good defense.
- One item of concern, was that DJO did come away with a slight hitch in his giddyup, after throwing down a dunk in the second half. Luckily, it didn't look like anything more than an awkward landing and DJO seemed to shake it off quickly.
- 12-3 in conference. Who thought we'd be here two months ago?
- Other than that, there isn't a ton to report. It was really just a ho-hum whooping of a team that isn't that good. Business has been handled.
Awards, if you please:
Jae Crowder Player of the Game Award: Back in December I said that Jae was going to force us to change the name of this award. Tonight, he finally succeeded. 27 points, 7 boards, 4 dimes, 4 steals and 3 blocks. As SVP would say: Jae Crowder, professional gentleman of leisure... on the stroll.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: We keep giving Junior Cadougan this award for his assists. Well, he only had 4 of those tonight. Instead, I'm going to give him the nod for his scoring. Junior was both assertive and efficient with his offense tonight. He scored 9 points on 4-7 shooting. When he got openings, he took it to the rack and finished. When he shot jumpers, they were in rhythm and in good spots on the floor. And, not to be overlooked, he ran the floor like a mad man to keep the pace of the game at the level Marquette wanted.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play of the Game: Late in the first half, DJO got the ball in transition and had Rutgers guard Mike Poole in front of him. DJ broke him down with an Iverson-esque crossover and blew right to the rack for a soft, lefty lay-up. It was pretty cool. As it happened I think I actually heard the voice from NBA Street say "Breakin' you off!"
Up Next: A quick turnaround this week. A trip to West Virginia awaits Marquette this Friday night. I suspect the team is already boarding their plane for Morgantown... Or at least they would have if there were actual flights in and out of Morgantown. So instead they'll likely be flying into Pittsburgh. And then from there, they'll take an Indian guided wagon train over the Appalachians -- hopefully avoiding hostile tribes and the French in their travels. After getting punched in the mouth at Notre Dame on Wednesday, the bubblicious Mountaineers could really use this win. To add even more juice to the game, this could potentially be the last regular season match-up between Marquette and longtime foe Bob Huggins. With West Virginia bolting to the Big 12 next year, this game could be the final battle between Huggy and the Golden Eagles. Too bad really. Good nemeses are so hard to come by these days. Tip off will be at 8:00 on ESPN. Until then...