In three months of play, we've learned a few things about the college basketball landscape in the 2012-'13 season:
Marquette isn't very good.
In fact, save for a couple of outliers, there aren't any teams that are very good.
The 70-51 mollywhopping YOUR Golden Eagles absorbed at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals was strong evidence in support of those positions, as UofL flexed its muscle and showed why the Cards are the popular pick to cut down the nets in Atlanta when all's said and done.
We can analyze this thing six ways to Sunday, but yesterday's contest was much the same as the 30-point beatdown that Florida put on Marquette in Gainesville a couple months back: like the Gators, Louisville is just a much, much better team than MU, and unless Marquette catches them on a random day when nothing's going right, the Golden Eagles have almost no hope against the faster, deeper, more talented Cardinals.
For a couple of minutes, it looked like whatever malaise afflicted Louisville in back to back to back losses to Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown was still lingering, as UofL missed its first seven shots and allowed MU to grab an early 9-1 advantage. But, as you knew they would, Louisville started making shots, which allowed them to ratchet up their pressure defense, which led to a boatload of Marquette turnovers and easy transition points for the Cards. After the game was knotted at 16 with 9 minutes and change in the first half, MU went ice cold from the field and allowed Louisville to close the half on a backbreaking 22-8 run, and Marquette never whittled the deficit under a dozen in the second half.
Some other brief notes:
- Junior Cadougan was once again awful against Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, finishing with two points, an assist, and four turnovers while Siva broke out of a slump to go for 14 and Smith finished with 18. It was a distressing facsimile of last year's Big East Tournament loss to Louisville, when Cadougan almost single-handedly pratfalled MU to defeat. At this point, Siva is so far in Cadougan's head that Buzz Williams would have to give serious thought to starting Derrick Wilson should the teams meet again in New York.
- Jamil Wilson has a promising future as a magician: dude vanishes like no other when his team needs him most. He's one of the few cats on MU's roster who's got the talent to hang with the Cards, but you wouldn't know him from a walk-on by looking at the box score: 1-7 from the field, two points, three rebounds, missed both three point attempts, no blocks, no steals.
- "Vander Blue had a quietly efficient 17" count: 6. "Vander Blue was the only guy who looked like he belonged on the floor" count: 2.
- Actually, that's not fair: Trent Lockett was really good in 31 minutes, too. He was the only Golden Eagle who showed any interest in attacking the rim, and he was awarded 9 free throw attempts (seven makes) for his efforts. With Jamil sticking his head inside his shell, Marquette's going to need Lockett to step up in February, so yesterday's performance was an encouraging sign.
- Did anyone let Davante Gardner know he didn't get suspended after being ejected from Monday's win over South Florida? Ox checked out of this one early, too, picking up two quick fouls in the first half and attempting just four shots while turning the ball over three times. Louisville's length and athleticism completely overwhelmed Gardner down low; he couldn't get free to get a touch in the paint, and on the few occasions when he did, he had nowhere to go.
- Chris Otule tries really, really hard. He's all guts and duct tape and knee braces. But four rebounds in 25 minutes ain't gonna cut it.
Jae Crowder Player of the Year of the Game: The pickings are slim, but let's give the nod to Vander Blue, as much for his team-leading 5 rebounds as his 17 points. If not for Van sticking his nose in the paint, Louisville's 34-22 advantage on the backboards would've been even bigger.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Boy. On a day when eight of the ten guys who saw action turned in putrid performances, the winner by default is Trent Lockett for his Stat Stuffer Lite line of 16 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, an assist, and just one turnover.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: You know it's a bad game when the play of the game is the first points your team scored, but that's the kind of day it was: with 19 minutes to go in the first half, Lockett swiped the ball and went in for a dunk while absorbing contact from Gorgui Dieng, then finished the three-point play to give Marquette a not-at-all-commanding 3-0 lead.
Up Next: Marquette stays on the road, heading to sunny Tampa for a date with the South Florida Bulls on Wednesday night.