December 21, 2013
With the bright lights and allure of Las Vegas awaiting the Golden Eagles this weekend, Marquette put forth one of its most complete outings of the season Tuesday, defeating Ball State 91-53.
Chris Otule led Marquette scorers with 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks, and Jamil Wilson netted 13 points. Seven Golden Eagles scored in double figures, including Juan Anderson, who overcame a minor ankle injury at the end of the first half to tally 10 points, six boards and six steals.
The Golden Eagles improve to 7-4, and will have their last true challenging non-conference game Saturday in Sin City against New Mexico.
“We have to keep going,” coach Buzz Williams said. “It can’t be one step forward, two steps back. We’re not dancing. We’re trying to mature. I do feel like how we’ve worked, how we’ve practiced, it has continued to get better, but I think we still have a long way to go.”
Marquette shot a scorching 54 percent for the night and killed the Cardinals inside, holding a 56-16 edge in paint points. Transition and a relentless full court press played crucial roles in the win; the Golden Eagles scored 30 points off of 23 Ball State turnovers and garnered 24 fast break points.
“Just trying to get us all engaged,” Williams said on the defense. “Our team is not solely dependent upon it, but it changes the complexity of our team when we’re able to score in transition. The best way for us to score in transition is like most teams — we need to be able to get consecutive stops, and the best way to do that is to extend the pressure.”
This was the second consecutive game in which Marquette jumped on its opponent early and had no trouble the rest of the way. After having a 25-point halftime lead Saturday against IUPUI, Marquette led 42-24 at the break Tuesday.
Point guard Derrick Wilson (11 points, five assists), attributes these well-rounded starts to the way many players have been contributing, on and off the ball.
“I feel like we’re playing more as a team,” Wilson said. “Everybody’s scoring and everybody’s getting stops. You can put five different guys out there in a 10-guy rotation, and everybody’s getting stops. I think that’s really good for our team. You can work the kinks out playing through a game like that as well.”
Ball State would make a layup with 17 minutes left to cut the deficit to 13, but the Golden Eagles used a 27-7 run over the next eight minutes to help put the game away.
The Cardinals’ free throw woes wouldn’t help matters either; Ball State compiled a miserable 6-of-21 showing at the charity stripe, whereas Marquette shot a solid 22-of-28.
The Marquette freshmen continued to impress. Deonte Burton and Jajuan Johnson each scored 12 points, the first time in both their careers they have scored in double digits in consecutive games. Johnson converted on an impressive fast break dunk midway through the second half that brought many fans to their feet.
New Mexico will present its challenges to the Golden Eagles this Saturday, as Buzz Williams is well aware of the dangerous frontcourt combination of Cameron Bairstow (20.2 ppg) and Alex Kirk (17.1 ppg).
“They’re a hard matchup, and they’re going to get it inside 95 percent of the time,” Williams said. “They’re really good. I would put them in the same category as Ohio State and Wisconsin. I know that nationally they’re not known like that. Statistically, if you look at their numbers, they’re very impressive, offensively and defensively.”