Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.
Despite surrendering a buzzer-beating three-pointer to Lamar Patterson to send the game to overtime, Marquette defeated Pittsburgh 74-67 in the extra session Saturday. Vander Blue scored 22 points en route to the Golden Eagles’ first true road win of the season. Marquette improved to 12-3 and 3-0 in the Big East.
In those three conference wins, the sum of Marquette’s leads at the end of regulation is one. The Golden Eagles defeated Connecticut in overtime 82-76 on Jan. 1 and beat Georgetown 49-48 on Jan. 5. Coach Buzz Williams provided a simple answer for why his team continues winning in the most nerve-wracking ways possible.
“We are just not very good,” Williams said. “That’s why they are close games.”
Williams said winning close games in January will help Marquette, no matter how stressful the games sometimes get.
“When you don’t have much of a margin, you begin to become accustomed to ‘this is what it’s going to be when we compete,’” Williams said. “I do think our team has grown over the last two and a half weeks, three weeks. It helps when you have success.”
Blue said the close wins epitomize the mentality of the 2012-13 team.
“I think it just sums up what we’ve been doing all year,” Blue told the Associated Press. “A lot of people didn’t have us winning.”
Not having senior point guard Junior Cadougan on the floor for the entire second half and overtime didn’t make the win any easier. Cadougan rolled his ankle after landing on a Pittsburgh player’s foot midway through the first half. He returned at the end of the half but then sat out the final 25 minutes, which opened the door for Derrick Wilson to play a career-high 31 minutes at the point.
“When they brought him back in the first half, they said he was ready to go,” Williams said. “I immediately let him go in. He played one possession of offense and I could tell that he didn’t have his gears going. I didn’t know if it was because he was cold as opposed to if his ankle was sprained. Jamie McNeilly, who works with us and is close to Junior, told me at halftime, ‘Coach, he won’t tell you, but he can’t play.’ I told our guys that Derrick (Wilson) was starting.”
Cadougan likely will play against Seton Hall Wednesday.
Pittsburgh also saw its point guard go down in the first half. Just four minutes into the game, Panthers star Tray Woodall knocked heads with Wilson while diving for a loose ball. Woodall stayed down after the play, left the game and didn’t return due to a concussion. Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said losing Woodall forced him to adjust his game plan.
“We believe we have good depth and can play different guys, but obviously the rotation got changed around with Tray going out,” Dixon said. “(We) had to go to some different things that we hadn’t practiced a lot.”
The Woodall injury was just one of the factors making Williams nervous about what a game like this means for the rest of the season.
“We are thankful that we get to have a happy flight on the way home, but we are also cognizant that we have eight more road games,” Williams said. “For us to be in the middle of January and have only won one road game, it was a good one, but we also have lost some that you could argue that we shouldn’t have.”
Williams isn’t sure whether the fan heart attacks will continue.
“We have a long way to go and we’re thankful for the win, but we will have another chance next Saturday to play on the road,” Williams said. “We will see how we do.”