Saturday’s match-up with DePaul wasn’t the easy win most people expected for Marquette. The Blue Demons came to the Bradley Center with just one Big East victory, but they gave the Golden Eagles a surprising test.
DePaul’s sharp long-distance shooting kept it in the game, as the Blue Demons knocked down nine of 20 attempted three-pointers (45 percent).
Marquette won by dominating the paint. The Golden Eagles scored 50 points under the basket to DePaul’s 30, outrebounded the Blue Demons 30-24 and shot 63.6 percent inside the three-point line.
Coach Buzz Williams talked about his team’s collective presence on the glass and the importance of each player’s contribution.
“Trent Lockett’s got to be great on the glass,” Williams said. “He doesn’t have to be second on our team in rebounding, but he is in Big East play.”
Senior guard Junior Cadougan finished with 17 points, using his basketball sense to exploit DePaul’s weakness in the defensive frontcourt. Cadougan put his head down and drove to the basket, making defenders look like cardboard cutouts.
“I just saw the opening,” Cadougan said. “Coach saw the weakness, so that’s why we started running the pick and pop and the flat ball screen. They played man-to-man, and they were playing high on the floor to try to take our wings away. So we were setting screens in the channels to break the shell and get it flowing.”
Junior guard Vander Blue employed a similar strategy, finishing with 18 points, while the rest of the Golden Eagles chipped in across the board.
Despite the win, Williams was still critical of his team, sticking to the “we’re not that good” mentality that he’s consistently held all season.
“I don’t think you can be great and allow a team to score 50 percent of their shots on your home floor,” he said. “I’m not sure what we’re great at, and I’m not being a pessimist, because I know we’ve improved.”
Williams credited his team’s efficiency and ability to take care of the basketball, as the Golden Eagles finished with just nine turnovers. He especially credited Cadougan’s play at the point.
“I think Junior’s playing with more poise after the Louisville shellacking than he’s ever played within back-to-back games. (It’s good) to play the second-fastest team in the country and only have nine turnovers, which is less than we had at South Florida, and they’re one of the slower teams in the country.”
Marquette had one of its best games of the season offensively, knocking down 31 field goals and shooting 56.4 percent from the floor. It needed all of that to stay ahead of the Blue Demons, who came out firing, nearly matching the Golden Eagles step-for-step at 49.2 percent for the game.
Marquette would go on to tie a season high with 89 points, and in the first half both teams combined for 81 to make up the highest scoring frame Marquette has played in all season.
While starters Donnavan Kirk, Worrel Clahar and Brandon Young combined for 53 of DePaul’s points, Marquette got a much more balanced effort.
The Golden Eagles’ starting five scored 53 points, and the bench notched 36 of its own. Junior forward Davante Gardner’s 13 led the way for the subs, while Jamil Wilson and Todd Mayo combined for another 20 points.