With two straight losses, Marquette’s regular season didn’t finish the way the team wanted, however, the Big East Tournament offers a shot at redemption, starting tonight at 8 p.m. against Providence (15-16, 4-14 Big East).
In Marquette’s last two games, senior forward Jimmy Butler, who was named All-Big East Honorable Mention on Sunday, has been one of the few bright spots. Butler scored 20-plus points in each, including half of Marquette’s 60 points in a 67-60 loss last Wednesday to Cincinnati, and attempted double digit free throws in each contest.
“I don’t think that if any player on our team scored 50 percent of our points that it would be healthy, by and large, for our entire team,” coach Buzz Williams said. “The next worst part is that (junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom) scored 25 percent of our points against Cincinnati, that’s not any good either. We need everybody to help.”
Johnson-Odom said the team’s energy wasn’t at the level it needed to be in Marquette’s loss to Cincinnati and the 85-72 loss to Seton Hall Saturday.
“We weren’t ready to play as a team,” Johnson-Odom said. “That hurt us. We’re fighting right now. We’ll see what we’ll do in the tournament.”
Cincinnati and Seton Hall shot near 50 percent in both games, something Marquette needs to improve upon tonight, not only to keep its opponent’s point total down, but for improving its offense.
“Our offense will struggle if we’re always taking the ball out of the net,” Williams said. “We’re really good in the first 10 seconds of a possession; we’re doubly as good in the first 10 seconds of a possession off of a missed shot.”
Providence will be Marquette’s first opportunity to improve that. The Golden Eagles (18-13, 9-9 Big East) defeated the Friars 86-62 on Feb. 27 and held senior swingman Marshon Brooks, the nation’s second leading scorer at 24.8 points per game, to only 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting.
“Maybe more than other volume shooters, volume scorers, he doesn’t score because of his quicks or because he’s fast, he scores because he’s (got good rhythm),” Williams said. “And he scores because he’s so long. I think what helped us last game is that Jimmy can match his length and that changes his rhythm.
“You have to give him different looks but more important than that you can’t let him ever let him have fluidity in whatever he’s trying to do. When he does, that’s why he scored the way he’s scored. He makes shots that you and me try in H-O-R-S-E and he’s making them in a live game.”
If Marquette makes it past Providence, its task only gets harder as it will face West Virginia (20-10, 11-7 Big East), a team it defeated at home 79-74 on Jan. 1. But the ultimate goal is to win the Big East Tournament, which would require Marquette to play five games in five days.
“Anything’s possible,” Butler said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do (we’ll be fine). I don’t think that five games in five days sounds too bad.”