In a championship game of The Basketball Tournament that back and forth and up and down and left and right, it was going to come down to who you trusted to hit the big shot when the moment mattered the most. For Golden Eagles, the Marquette alumni squad, that man was wily veteran Travis Diener.
After Jamel Artis missed a triple on the other end that would have given Sideline Cancer a lead and pulled them within two points of the Target Score, Golden Eagles hired gun Elgin Cook found The Babyfaced Assassin open in the corner for the Elam Ender. As you’d expect, Diener hit the big shot, because that’s what assassins like Travis Diener do.
While there was never a doubt that the shot was falling as soon as we all saw that Cook had found a wide open Diener in the corner, the ultimate result of the game was definitely in doubt all the way through. Sure, Golden Eagles opened up an 8-0 lead to start the game, and maintained that margin at 12-4, but by the time the first nine minutes were over, it was Sideline Cancer holding a 23-22 lead. As the second quarter rolled on, the Marquette squad calmly built themselves a seven point margin to lead 35-28 on a triple by Maurice Acker with 4:17 left in the frame. That’s good! Sideline Cancer going on a 9-2 tear to tie the game at 37? Less good! It looked like Golden Eagles was going to escape to the locker room with a one point advantage, but Maurice Creek realized that Jamil Wilson’s back was turned to him on a last second inbound, and he did the “inbound off the turned back” trick.
And so the second quarter ended the same way the first did, with Sideline Cancer holding a one point lead, just at 44-43 this time.
Back to back triples from Dwight Buycks and Jamil Wilson put the Marquette gang back out in front by five points straight out of the gate in the second half. As you can guess from the theme of the piece here, that lead did not last. Creek sank a layup to put Sideline Cancer up 50-49 with 5:29 to go in the quarter, and he followed that up with a three about 90 seconds later to make it a four point margin for the #22 seed. The two sides would bat the lead back and forth the rest of the way, and Darius Johnson-Odom popped in a stepback to make it — WAIT FOR IT — a one point lead for Sideline Cancer, 61-60, at the end of the quarter.
Artis broke the ice on the fourth quarter, putting Sideline Cancer up three, but DJO immediately answered with an and-1 layup to knot the shebang at 63 each. Jamil Wilson answered an Artis three with a long ball of his own, tying it back up at 66. Thanks to a layup from Mo Charlo and two of three freebies from him as well, Golden Eagles found themselves leading 70-66 with 5:23 to play. Yet again, that lead did not hold, and a Remy Abell triple just before the four minute mark both tied things at 70 and also provided the last points scored before the start of the Elam Ending.
Finally, a break point in the game where Marquette was not trailing by one.
MU got to inbound to start the Elam Ending by way of a rebound that went out of bounds, and Diener found Wilson flying down the lane for a dunk to give Golden Eagles the first two of the eight points they needed to get to the Target Score. Marcus Keene answered with a monster triple to put Sideline Cancer up 73-72, and it seemed very clear that this was not over.
Wilson hit a big ol’ three of his own to put Golden Eagles back out in front, 75-73, and pull the good guys within three points of the Target Score. The Keene bucket made the win seem so far away, but it would be the final time that Sideline Cancer would score in the game. All that was left after Wilson’s bomb was Diener’s game winner and an absurd amount of golden confetti flying thru the air.
A four-pack of 15+ point performances led the way for Marquette here, with Wilson’s 16 points leading the way for Marquette. Buycks and Cook both had 15 as well, and DJO wrapped up his TBT MVP campaign with 15 points and three assists in this one.
DJO was joined on the TBT all-tournament team by Jamil Wilson, and - duh - Golden Eagles head coach Joe Chapman earned Coach of the Year honors, too.
While Sideline Cancer shot 54% from the field in the game and 42% from long range, we have to tip our cap to one defensive note by the Golden Eagles. In order to win, they were going to have to swallow up Marcus Keene. The former Central Michigan star was tearing it up all tournament long for Sideline Cancer, picking up two big Elam Enders along the way. In the title game, led by Derrick Wilson, Golden Eagles held Keene to just six points on 2-for-5 shooting. That big three in the Elam Ending? Just his second make of the game, and I think it’s safe to say that things would have gone a lot worse for the MU crew if that was actually make #6 or #7 for Keene.
Thankfully it wasn’t, though, and we got to see the guys celebrate their win as well as reacting to those TBT payouts hit their bank accounts immediately thanks to Zelle:
That’s all we’ve got for TBT coverage this year. Perhaps next year, as TBT champions, Golden Eagles will get to host a regional at the Al McGuire Center?