[insert It’s Happening GIF here]
Travis Diener attempted three shots, all three-pointers, on Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, as Golden Eagles squared off against Team Hines in the semifinals of The Basketball Tournament. He made two of them. Both of the makes came after the Elam Ending started. The first one broke a 60-all tie, moving the Marquette alumni team within five points of the Target Score.
The second one, well, he went full No ***** Given Mode coming across midcourt after Kyle Hines pulled his squad within three points but with the MU guys sitting three points away from the Target Score:
For those of you who started following Marquette basketball after the 2004-05 season, do you understand now why Travis Diener was nicknamed The Babyfaced Assassin? Is it making sense now?
Yes, it’s true. Thanks to Diener’s Elam Ending heroics, Golden Eagles has advanced to the title game of The Basketball Tournament, getting the 68-62 win over Team Hines, the Greensboro regional champion.
It can not be understated how great of a game this was, in terms of thrill level. Team Hines had a four point lead at one point in the first quarter, and that was the largest lead of the game until the Marquette guys finally went up by five during the Elam Ending. Other than that, nobody led by more than three points either way. There were 21 lead changes. There were 18 ties. Both teams knew exactly what was on the line. Not only were they one game away from the title game and a 36 minute contest for $2 million, but they already knew that four-time defending champs Overseas Elite had been knocked out of TBT. They had won 29 straight games in the tournament coming into the first semifinal game of the day, but they were gone. The looming threat of facing the most unstoppable TBT team ever was gone. The winner take all prize was really and truly up for grabs, but both teams knew that they had to get through this game in order to get there.
Jamil Wilson had a rough one for Golden Eagles here, finishing with eight points on 3-for-13 shooting, but he was lifted up by his teammates. Elgin Cook led all scorers with 21 points, connecting on nine of his 11 attempts inside the arc, and he finished with a double-double thanks to 10 rebounds. Maurice Acker was a terror from outside, raining in four of six long range attempts. Even Wilson found a way to impact the game without his shots falling, yanking down a game high 13 rebounds, more than doubling up any member of Team Hines.
In fact, it was Marquette’s ability to rebound the ball that paid off for them. While it only turned into eight second chance points for them, Golden Eagles hauled in 38% of their missed shots. On the other end, the MU guys made Team Hines pay for their 40% shooting, including a 6-for-24 outing behind the arc. The Hines guys wrapped up just 24% of their missed shots and tallied just four second chance points.
And so, it’s on to Tuesday night, where Carmen’s Crew, the Ohio State alumni team, is waiting for Golden Eagles. It will be the first TBT title game appearance for both teams, and their second encounter in TBT. A spot in the semifinals was on the line two years ago, and the Ohio State crew came out ahead then. Will fortunes change for the Marquette guys this time around? Will Jamil Wilson’s shooting touch return? What will Travis Diener do for an encore?
We’ll have to wait for answers on all of those. What we do know for sure is that there will be jokes about Aaron Craft taking charges.