Marquette controlled all facets of the game Wednesday night against Seton Hall at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, yet the Golden Eagles (13-3, 4-0) only managed to defeat the Pirates (12-6, 1-4) by a score of 69-62. According to coach Buzz Williams, that’s a huge margin for this Marquette team.
“This was a blowout,” Williams said. “We won by seven. I don’t think we’ll blow out anybody.”
The win was Marquette’s most comfortable so far in Big East play, but it didn’t come easy. After trailing 26-16 following a grueling first half, Seton Hall trimmed the Marquette lead to one (40-39) with 9:09 remaining. However, important contributions by Davante Gardner, who led all scorers with 17 points, and Todd Mayo, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half, secured the Golden Eagle victory.
“It’s always tough playing Seton Hall, especially when they are down to seven guys and they are playing with an edge,” said Jamil Wilson, who scored 10 points in the win. “If they win, they win. If they lose, they’re just going to take what they learned from it and keep going. It’s always tough playing teams like that.”
Wilson added that playing such close games against inferior competition can grow bothersome over time.
“You can get frustrated,” Wilson said. “The frustration sometimes gets the best of us. Then every guy including myself wants to take that big shot to bury them as the season goes on, we’ll get better.”
The big shot of Wednesday’s game came from Mayo, who nailed a spread-legged three-pointer with a man in his face to put Marquette up 12 with 3:09 to go. Williams had a quality conversation with Mayo after he made the shot.
“I believe in him,” Williams said of Mayo. “And I don’t believe in him just cause he made a shot and everybody’s excited. I appreciate him hanging in there despite all that he’s been through it’s about continuing to grow and continuing to learn.”
Mayo added another three earlier in the half and made all six of his free throws for his best performance since returning from academic suspension against LSU Dec. 22. Williams raved about his performance.
“I thought how he played in the second half always calmed the run that they were on,” Williams said. “I thought he made timely baskets.”
Williams also added that this is his best team in the post he has had in his tenure at Marquette. Wilson agrees, and thinks that balanced rebounding is a major reason why. Against Seton Hall, Gardner, Wilson, Trent Lockett and Chris Otule all pulled down between five and six rebounds.
“We’ve hugely increased rebounding as a team,” Wilson said. “You’ve got four or five guys getting five to seven, ten rebounds sometimes our emphasis on rebounding is changing our team.”
On a lighter note, Vander Blue drew the first charge of his 88-game Marquette career with 12:24 remaining in the second half. Williams sat on the scorer’s table clapping his hands over his head, and radio play-by-play man Steve “Homer” True gave Blue a standing ovation.
“I was excited,” Williams said. “If I could’ve stood on top of Homer’s head, I would have. But then I would have gotten all the attention, and I wanted Vander to get all the attention.”
Going forward, Williams feels Marquette will have to keep gritting out victories, but he is confident his team can do just that.
“I don’t think we’re great,” Williams said. “I’m not sure what we’re good at at times. But if we can be good at winning, maybe that will be enough.”