The Marquette men’s basketball team beat up Grambling State Tuesday night in all facets and scored the third-most points in program history in a 114-71 win. That’s all fine and good, but the loss was Grambling’s 30th straight, dating back to the beginning of last season. So while Marquette did win by 43, it probably should have done just that.
So what can fans take away from Tuesday’s drubbing of the Tigers? Here are five real positives from Tuesday Marquette can feel good about going into the Ohio State game Saturday.
1. Marquette scored in the paint. A lot.
Friday, Marquette scored just 16 points in the paint to Southern’s 20. Tuesday, the Golden Eagles allowed another 20 points in the paint to Grambling, but scored 76 of their own.
“We’ve always been a paint touch-centric team,” coach Buzz Williams said. “Early in our tenure it was by and large off the bounce. I think now it’s probably more off of the pass.”
From the get go, Marquette attacked the paint and scored in bunches from the post with big men. In fact, Todd Mayo was the first guard to score for the Golden Eagles with just 4:38 remaining in the first half. Chris Otule, Davante Gardner, Steve Taylor, Jr., Deonte Burton, Jamil Wilson and Juan Anderson all scored in double figures for Marquette’s frontcourt.
“If you’re able to get the ball in the channel, you’ve probably forced rotation,” Williams said. “When you force rotation you have a better chance of getting fouled. It probably means if you don’t shoot it in the channel, then the ball is going to be coming from below to a shooter with 10 toes to the rim, which increases your field goal percentage.”
2. Steve Taylor, Jr., looked fantastic.
After he underwent offseason knee surgery, not many people thought Taylor would be ready to play right away, let alone make the impact he made Tuesday. The Chicago native had 16 points and 11 rebounds and showed an ability to score in multiple ways. Taylor made jump shots, hook shots and cutbacks en route to his most impressive Marquette performance.
“I felt really good today,” Taylor said. “I don’t know why, but when I got up this morning, I just felt like I was ready to go.”
Williams said Friday night Taylor went through the normal jitters that freshmen go through since he’d never started before. He was impressed with how Taylor reversed his fortune from game one to game two.
“I think Steve can be a core guy,” Williams said. “His bounce is coming back around with his body and I think it will continue to improve. Steve is really smart. He has some maturity about him.”
3. The freshmen got aggressive.
Burton, JaJuan Johnson and John Dawson certainly didn’t play like freshmen Tuesday. Burton and Johnson played aggressively with the ball in their hands, and Dawson dished out a few room service dimes. Especially impressive was Burton’s willingness to create his own shot and shoot with confidence.
“I felt more comfortable in playing the system and it showed,” Burton said.
Johnson shined late in the second half, as he took over the game for a while and finished with 12 points. But Burton had the play of the game, rising way above the rim to flush an alley-oop pass from Derrick Wilson.
“It felt really good,” Burton said. “I’m just glad he trusted me enough to throw it up.”
4. Marquette (eventually) made some threes.
The Golden Eagles missed their first nine three-pointers of the game against Grambling, and that seemed to frustrate Jake Thomas. The senior guard came out firing in the second half, knocking down three three-pointers in the first seven minutes of the frame. His first three-ball, on the opening possession of the second half, was his first make since his famous four-point play against Syracuse in February.
“He needs to be on the scouting report,” Williams said. “‘Hey that guy right there, he shoots. That guy right there, when he shoots, he scores.’ We need that. That spaces the floor even more.”
Marquette finished the game 5-for-18 from beyond the arc, with the other two long balls coming from Johnson and Jamil Wilson. The team will need a jump-shooting threat to set up scoring in the post.
5. Dylan Flood scored
OK, this won’t carry over into Ohio State. But the feel good moment of the game came when Williams made Anderson intentionally foul to allow Flood to check into the game with 33 seconds remaining. The crowd erupted at the sight of the junior walk-on from Lemont, Ill., checking in. Immediately, Flood pulled down a rebound on a missed free throw. Then at the other end, he drove the lane and scored a layup with 14 seconds to go, his first collegiate basket.
“Todd was hollering at me from the bench, ‘Coach, put Dylan in,’” Williams said. “I had forgotten since Jamil told me since I was so comfortable sitting down for the first time. Good for Dylan.”
Marquette next faces No. 10/9 Ohio State at the Bradley Center Saturday at noon.