New-look Golden Eagles pass first test

In his second career start, senior guard David Cubillan filled the boxscore with 12 points, nine assists and four steals.
In his second career start, senior guard David Cubillan filled the boxscore with 12 points, nine assists and four steals.

There was something missing in the Bradley Center Saturday afternoon.

It wasn’t scoring — Marquette did plenty of that by pouring in 106 points. It wasn’t rebounding — the Golden Eagles dominated both ends on the glass. It wasn’t Lazar Hayward — he lived up to the preseason hype by dropping in 24 points in just 17 minutes.

Rather, it was the familiar faces of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews. For the past four seasons, James, McNeal and Matthews have been mainstays in the starting five and provided much of the offensive production for the Marquette men’s basketball team.

The new-look Golden Eagles took the floor Saturday and, although they faced off against a weak Division III opponent, picked up right where the trio left off.

With the new season, coach Buzz Williams has some more options on the offensive side of the ball.

“Jimmy (Butler) is much more offensive-minded than he was a year ago,” Williams said. “Chris (Otule) is much more comfortable and at least has a pulse of what’s going on. (Dwight) Buycks can really score. (Jeronne Maymon) will get some tough man points.”

All 12 healthy players saw action and 11 scored for the Golden Eagles. Williams used many different rotations of players to get a feel for the team and was pleased with the overall performance.

“For the experience of playing an exhibition game we accomplished a lot of things that we wanted to try to get a feel for,” coach Buzz Williams said. “It’s a balance of … letting your returning guys get a feel, letting newcomers play with the returning guys and get a feel and letting the newcomers just play and get a feel.”

Senior guard Maurice Acker showed glimpses of hope last season after James went down with a foot injury, but fellow senior David Cubillan was the one who lit up the stat sheet against the MSOE Red Raiders. Cubillan started at shooting guard but ran the offense occasionally and scored 12 points while dishing out nine assists.

“It was nice to play somebody else and to execute the things we’ve been doing in practice and show people the hard work we’ve been doing,” Cubillan said. “Coach Buzz says you gain confidence from working, and I’ve been working, so we’ll see how it plays out.”

Williams, however, is unsure that Acker and Cubillan will be able to play heavy minutes together and will look to junior transfer Dwight Buycks to split time with the two.

“You can do it,” Williams said about playing Acker and Cubillan together in future contests. “Whether or not you’ll have success with it, I don’t know.”

Buycks, who has played two years of junior college ball, looked impressive and was the team’s second leading scorer with 15 points.

“The experience that I had during college and the coaches I had helped me out a lot to come here and get ready to for what I was going to be approaching,” Buycks said. “It was another step for me to take when I got here.”

Williams said that even after dismantling MSOE by 59 points, there is work to be done and improvements to be made.

“I don’t want it to all be great because we have a week to work and try to get better,” he said.