If there was ever a game that stood as an example of "The refs are letting those guys play," last night's contest between YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles and the Murray State Racers is it. 29 fouls in the whole game, and 5 of them came in the last minute as Marquette tried to hold on to a lead and Murray State tried to extend it. It was big boy basketball at it's best, but it took Marquette 20 minutes to get figure out how to play without their usual high volume of trips to the free throw line, especially considering that Racers head coach Steve Prohm joked before the game that Marquette's players looked like they belonged on a football team.
Murray State had a balanced first half attack - 3 players with 6 points - and forward Ed Daniel more than held his own against Jae Crowder, Jamil Wilson, and Davante Gardner, yanking in 7 rebounds. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom struggled in the first half, going a combined 0-8 behind the three point arc, but DJO still found his way to the rim to get 8 points and Todd Mayo kept up his shooting momentum, hitting two big 3 pointers to keep MU in the game long enough for DJO to get a steal, avoid a traveling call, avoid being fouled, and get a layup as time expired to end the half with Murray State leading by 3.
Things smoothed out for MU in the second half as they were able to erase Murray State's halftime lead and take the lead on a Jae Crowder layup with 15:20 remaining. But Murray State wasn't going to go away. MU's lead was never higher than 4, and eventually Jewuan Long got layups on either side of a Donte Poole three pointer to put Murray State up five. While Junior Cadougan committed the turnover that gave Long the chance to score the second layup, it didn't mean he wasn't thinking about the game. After Buzz called timeout after the Long layup, Cadougan whispered in his head coach's ear that what this game needed was a heavy dose of Davante Gardner.
Cadougan was right.
After Crowder would cut the lead back to 1 on a jumper, Buzz inserted Gardner into the lineup and he promptly scored Marquette's next 6 points - and his only six points of the game - on two layups and two free throws after he got the ball while charging down the lane on the break. Crowder would follow all that with a three pointer - his only made three of the game - to give MU a 6 point lead which they were able to ride to the finish.
I'm not even joking, my heart rate elevated just recapping all of that.
Hit the jump for some notes, Four Factors and awards!
- Cracked Sidewalks pointed out that this game was Marquette's third most efficient defensive performance in the last decade against KenPom top 150 opponents. Go read the whole thing, but the upshot of it all is: Marquette played like an elite defense that you need to have to go deep in March.
- Jae Crowder, a 6'6" 225 pound forward, is currently 5 steals away from breaking Michael Wilson's Marquette single season steals record. Yeah. That's a thing that's happening.
- DJO and Jae have both moved into the top 10 of the single season points list and Junior's cracked the top 10 for single season assists. Like I commented in the Jubilation Thread, we are watching history take place before our eyes.
- OVC Player of the Year Isaiah Canaan lived up to his billing. 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. But, as an example of what Marquette was doing defensively, it took him 17 shots to get those points. All-Hair team member Ed Daniels was great for the Racers as well, scoring just 6 points, but grabbing 14 rebounds, 6 on the offensive end.
- I mentioned this in the Jubilation Thread post, but it's important to mention: This is the first time that Marquette has been in the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons since doing so in 1976 and 1977.
- Because CBS elected to have the play in the game after Marquette, Big Blue Nation elected to show up early and cheer on their fellow Kentucky residents. Marquette may as well have been playing Louisville in the (snicker) KFC YUM! Center. I want revenge against the Wildcats. This will require a trip to the Final Four.
- Last note: Fr. Pilarz is super excited!
eFG%: MU - 41.8% MSU - 34.4%
TO%: MU - 16.7% MSU - 22.3%
OReb%: MU - 14.3% MSU - 29.5%
FT Rate: MU - 38.1% MSU - 15.6%
Points Per Possession: MU - 0.86 MSU - 0.74
Jae Crowder Player Of The Game: We didn't rename this award for our health. 17 points and 13 rebounds for his 5th straight double-double along with 2 assists, 2 blocks and 3 steals gets Jae Crowder POTG honors. It's also the first time that a MU player has put up consecutive double-doubles in NCAA tournament games since Maurice Lucas did it in 1970. Yeah, THAT Maurice Lucas.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle Of The Game: We all saw those big triples in the first half, but how many of Todd Mayo's 6 rebounds do you remember? Or his 3 assists or 2 steals? Yes, he made some definitely goofy freshman mistakes towards the end, but they were all in the name of winning. It all worked out okay, so I choose to believe that he'll get the hang of the time and score thing eventually.
Davante "Big Smooth" Gardner Smooth Play Of The Game: Nothing about the play in this game could truly be described as smooth. But Junior Cadougan's insight to get Davante Gardner into the game at the right moment? VERY smooth.
Up Next: (checks NCAA scoreboard) Hooboy. Florida just waxed Norfolk State 84-50, so it looks like it's going to be the Gators on Thursday in Phoenix.