James delights despite ailing shoulder

Wes Matthews played in his first game since sustaining a stress fracture in his right foot against Lewis on Dec. 28.

Great.

Ousmane Barro asserted himself in the low post and held his own against Lamont Hamilton and Aaron Spears of St. John's.

That's nice.

Dominic James, playing with a brace on his right shoulder after separating it Saturday against Pittsburgh, took over the game in the second half, finished with 16 points and four assists in an 81-61 Marquette win.

Now there's something that really matters.

"I felt comfortable out there with the brace and everything I had on my shoulder," James said. "I felt like I played pretty well."

His coach was a little less modest.

"He was aggressive … this was one of his best games because he's not 100 percent," Marquette head coach Tom Crean said. "He hasn't practiced very much, but yet he came out with an aggressive mentality and ran this club."

Marquette travels to Philadelphia on Saturday to face No. 4 Villanova and its vaunted four-guard offense. Pulling off an upset against the likes of Allan Ray and Randy Foye would be a momentous task for any team, and nearly impossible for one starting an ailing point guard.

After the first half against the Red Storm it looked as if that scenario would play itself out in two days.

James started slow in the first half. He repeatedly touched the ailing shoulder, kept his right arm close to his side and seemed to lock his elbow at a 90-degree angle for periods of time.

At the half Marquette led by three and James had tallied a meager two points, one assist and one turnover.

"I think in the first half maybe the energy and playing through that injury was a little harder," Crean said.

But as the game progressed his play became more fluid, and he stopped favoring the shoulder to such a noticeable degree. He slid past the Red Storm guards and attacked the basket. His trademark finishing around the rim was graceful.

He sailed through the air and tossed up a reverse layup that kissed off the glass with a touch of English and fell through for a pair. When the ball didn't drop, it was illegally swatted out of the cylinder or he was fouled in the process and picked up two points at the free-throw line.

"I think the way he attacked and the way he went to the rim, especially in the second half, he played with just a fierce energy which was really good," Crean said.

St. John's coach Norm Roberts couldn't agree more.

"He's terrific," he said. "He's a terrific kid. He's done a great job under a lot of pressure."

That will come in handy when Marquette travels to "Nova Nation" Saturday.