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February 1, 2013The Golen Eagles are, well, the Golden Eagles, which means that they will get after you.
They went 9-3 in the nonconference partion of their schedule, then opened Big East play 4-0 -- two of those wins in overtime, another by one point -- before losing in overtime at Cincinnati. They scored a batty (a divebombing bat interrupted play in the second half) 81-71 victory over visiting Providence Saturday to improve to 5-1 in the Big East and will play host to South Florida Monday before traveling to Louisille Saturday. Based on the history of games between the old rivals, UofL fans can expect to see a hard-fought, competitive contest.
Marquette returned three starters but lost Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder and All-Big East first-teamer Darius Johnson-Odom. The Golden Eagles were picked to finish seventh in the league in a preseason poll of coaches. But not much was expected of them last year, either, and they finished 27-8 and were ranked No. 9 toward the end of the regular season, finished second in the Big East at 14-4 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen for the second straight year before losing to Florida 68-58.
The Golden Eagles are succeeding this season with solid team play, not with gaudy individual statistics. Only two players are averaging in double figures, and one of them doesn't even start. In fact, three of Marquette's top five scorers come off the bench. They are playing good overall defense -- holding foes to 40.2 percent shooting, 72nd in the country -- and they are 78th in the nation in shooting at 45.6 percent.
Two starters returned -- 6-4 junior Vander Blue and 6-1 senior Junior Cadougan -- and they are first and third on the team in scoring. Blue is averaging 14.0 ppg, Cadougan 8.9. Blue leads the team in three-pointers with 21 (of 62, 33.9 percent), while Cadougan leads in assists with 73 (4.3 a game) and in free-throw shooting at 84.0 percent. Both are decent shooters, Blue at 43.9 percent, Cadougan at 43.3, both average a steal a game, and both average 2.8 rebounds a game.
The third starter in the backcourt is 6-5 Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett, who is averaging 6.9 ppg, sixth on the team, and 4.9 rpg, tied for second on the team, but is shooting just 37.3 percent.
The top backcourt sub is 6-3 sophomore Todd Mayo, who was ineligible the first semester and has played in just the past nine games. He is averaging 7.7 ppg, fifth on the team, but is shooting only 36.1 percent.
Another backcourt sub is 6-3 South Dakota transfer Jake Thomas, a junior who is averaging 2.5 ppg.
ON THE WING
Jamil Wilson, a 6-7 junior, is averaging 8.8 ppg, fourth on the team, and 4.9 rpg, tied for second, although he has started just six games and has been coming off the bench lately. He is shooting 48.2 percent overall and a team-leading 38.5 percent on threes (15 of 39). He's a good free-throw shooter at 80.6 percent.
Mayo also could fill this role, as could 6-6 freshman Juan Anderson, who is averaging 3.4 ppg and 3.2 rpg and is shooting 31.8 percent on treys.
IN THE PIVOT
Chris Otule, a 6-11 senior, and 6-8, 290-pound junior Davante Gardner are back from injuries. Gardner, a behemoth, is averaging 13.2 ppg, second on the team, and a team-leading 5.7 rpg, although he doesn't start. He's shooting 58.4 percent and is 0 for 2 on treys. Gardner had 17 points and six rebounds against UofL in the first meeting last season (a 74-63 Marquette victory in Milwaukee) but just four points and two rebounds in their Big East tourney quarterfinal game (an 84-71 UofL victory), when he was hampered by a knee injury.
Otule, a starter, went down with a torn ACL in the eighth game of the season last year. He is averaging 4.3 ppg and 3.0 rpg and shooting 58.8 percent. He has not tried a trey.
Another frontcourt sub is 6-7 freshman Steve Taylor from powerhouse Chicago Simeon H.S. Taylor is averaging 3.1 ppg and is shooting 53.7 percent.
Buzz Williams coached one season at Tulane before coming to Marquette as Tom Crean's top assistant. When Crean left one year later for Indiana University Williams took over, and he has taken Marquette to the NCAA Tournament all four years he was head coach.
UofL and Marquette have met 67 times in a series that dates to 1951, with the Cards holding a 41-26 advantage. Two years ago the Cards scored a memorable victory at home when they rallied from 18 points down in the final 6:30 to triumph 71-70. You can watch those final seven minutes on the Internet by calling up Louisville-Marquette Miracle on Main. I just watched it twice. Got gooshpumps both times.
The Cards should win, especially given Marquette's shakey road record (1-3), but no knowledgeable UofL fan would be surprised to see a barnburner.