I’ll be honest, when I heard Jamil Wilson would be out for at least the first two games of The Basketball Tournament, I was worried about the potential for an upset for the #1 seeded Marquette alumni team. That type of versatility on offense and defense doesn’t grow on trees and the Golden Eagles have occasionally had tough offensive stretches in past years. The depth that he provides almost turned into the team’s demise, but they battled their way into the regional finals, beating Team Colorado by the absolute skin of their teeth.
The first half could be described as The Andrew Rowsey Show. He gave the fans a nice throwback with a Pull Up Jumper In Transition (PUJIT), another tough three from the corner, and a powerful drive to the basket. All told, he matched his 13 point output yesterday in the first half alone and led the team to a double digit lead. Secondary scoring efforts came from Dwight Buycks and Elgin Cook, who each contributed double digit points. It’s good that they did because the rest of the team combined for 8 points on 3-11 shooting.
Coach Joe Chapman decided to give Rowsey some rest through most of the third quarter, so Dwight Buycks was given the Main Scorer baton and he quickly took over, scoring 8 of the team’s first 10 points of the quarter. But yet again, an offensive drought allowed Team Colorado to creep back into the game, grinding the lead down to 4 towards the end of the third quarter. Golden Eagles took back the momentum almost immediately after that point, however. A quick two extended the lead to 6 with Colorado getting the chance for the final shot of the quarter. A dead ball turnover with 2 seconds left eliminated that chance and the Marquette alums were given the chance for a last second heave. Elgin Cook was inexplicably allowed to get a crisp pass from Mo Charlo over the midcourt line and he drilled a double clutched three pointer at the buzzer that reminded me of the Marcus Paige game tying three in the 2016 title game. All of the sudden a 4 point nail biter was turned into a cozy 9 point margin heading into the final stanza.
The fourth quarter proved to be disastrous for the Golden Eagles. A terrible scoring drought was only barely masked by the team’s ability to get to the foul line. The dwindling lead gave Team Colorado enough confidence to power themselves to a lead after being down 6 going into the Elam Ending. A 21-8 run (!!!!!!) gave them an 81-80 lead and the ball with a target score of 83, just like that. After a missed layup, Marquette had a chance down 1 to win the game on a three, and Coach Chapman called for a stagger screen to give Rowsey the three. The play blew up and Buycks threw up a contested shot that got blocked. Team Colorado missed 3 more shots (!!!) on their next possession and gave Marquette yet another opportunity. A fantastic read by Mo Charlo gave Elgin Cook a three to end it and he nailed it. Game over. Whew.
The MVP of the game was Dwight Buycks once again. His efficient scoring early on gave Marquette the cushion they needed to be able to stave off that big run. Having real NBA caliber talent in games like this is such a treat to watch. I talked about him yesterday, so I want to spotlight Trend Blackledge today. He was rather unheralded in the stat sheet, but that man plays so tough. Team Colorado is an incredibly physical team and Blackledge had to fight off all of them by himself. 2 blocks and 5 rebounds doesn’t begin to describe the effort he put in on both ends of the floor. Hats off to him.
It’s impossible to talk about this team without mentioning their preparation and effort. The leadership of the team has done a spectacular job of bringing everyone on the team for real, legitimate practices. If Aftershocks takes care of business against Sideline Cancer (they’re up 1 at the half as of this writing), Golden Eagles will face one of their toughest tests yet against a team that boasts star power, youth, depth, and an insane home court advantage. Tomorrow’s game will be must-see TV for any college basketball fan wanting a taste of great competition in front of a raucous crowd. The fresh legs of Jamil Wilson will be imperative for the team’s success, so pray for his airline provider.