Men’s basketball has been working overtime

The Marquette men’s basketball team played its first game of the season on Nov. 7, 2009, a 106-47 pummeling of MSOE in an exhibition contest. The team suffered its share of heartbreak in the long, treacherous four months that followed. But as the calendar turned to March, the Golden Eagles find themselves playing their best basketball of the season.

Conference play, however, has taken its toll on a Marquette team that severely lacks height and depth. The team’s last three overtime games have added to the wear and tear.

“Obviously we’re tired, but when we step in between those lines we try not to let any of that phase us,” junior forward Jimmy Butler said. “We can’t let fatigue be a factor. We have to go out there and play hard every possession and get a win.”

On Feb. 21 Lazar Hayward hit a 3-pointer to force overtime against Cincinnati and the Golden Eagles went on to win, 79-76. Three days later, Butler provided overtime heroics of his own with a game-winning jumper to defeat St. John’s, 63-61.

When Sunday’s second half against Seton Hall ended with the score tied at 69, all the Golden Eagles could do was laugh.

“It was funny, because we ran the same play at the end of regulation that we did against St. John’s,” Butler said. “It was all about getting the win, though. I saw (Maurice Acker) who found (Hayward), and he had a great look but unfortunately wasn’t able to hit it.”

This time around, it wasn’t a clutch shot that sealed a Marquette victory. Rather, it was a missed shot by one of the nation’s most prolific scorers, Jeremy Hazell, whose 3-pointer to tie the game rattled out.

“It was a tough game for both teams, and they played extremely hard and came back,” junior forward Joseph Fulce said. “They hit some tough shots in overtime and everyone took one big sigh of relief when (Hazell’s) last shot went out.”

Fulce, who averages 11.3 minutes and 3.6 points per game, is quietly becoming one of the most important parts of this determined Golden Eagles squad.

“I want to contribute anything I can to help the team win,” Fulce said. “Coach tells everyone, ‘You have to be ready at all times.’ When my name is called and coach puts me out there, I’m going out there and giving it my all.”

With the win over Seton Hall, Marquette captured 10 Big East wins for the fifth straight season. The Golden Eagles now sit tied for fifth in the conference with Louisville.

The Cardinals come to the Bradley Center riding a hot streak of their own. They’ve won four of their last five games, including wins at Syracuse and Connecticut.

“Since it’s getting close to the end, they want it just as bad as we do,” sophomore guard Darius Johnson-Odom said about Louisville. “I see them playing harder than a lot of teams now at the end of the season, because they know how much every game means.”

The NCAA record for consecutive overtime games is four. The Golden Eagles could use a breather from tight games, but if it takes an extra period to knock off the Cardinals, they’ll certainly take it.

“It definitely plays in our favor seeing as we’re 3-0 in overtime,” Johnson-Odom said. “If it happens again we know how to play it.”

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