The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

This time, it counts

There’s only so much practicing, scrimmaging and exhibition games that players can take before they want to get out and play games that count.

Well, the wait is no more for the Marquette men’s basketball team, as the 2010-’11 season officially tips off Friday night against the Prairie View A&M Panthers.

The Panthers will have to replace last year’s scoring, rebounding and assists leaders for a team that finished 16-14 overall and 11-7 in Southwestern Athletic Conference play.

“It doesn’t really matter who we play,” junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom said. “We just want to get out there and play for real.”

Marquette has a quick turnaround with a game against Bucknell Sunday afternoon, which will be the first of two games for Marquette in the preliminary round of the College Basketball Experience Classic.

Bucknell finished last season with a 14-17 overall record, but a respectable 9-5 mark in Patriot League play.

Playing two games in less than 48 hours can wear on any team, particularly early in the season, and it will be interesting to see how a relatively inexperienced Golden Eagle team responds to the challenge.

“It’s going to be tough, but we practice every day, so we’re used to the grind,” freshman guard Reggie Smith said.

Smith was one of the surprises in Marquette’s 86-56 win over Division III Saint John’s (Minn.) in its only exhibition game last Saturday.

The 6-foot Smith scored eight points and dished out seven assists while not committing a turnover in just 14 minutes of action at the point guard position.

Coach Buzz Williams started senior guard Dwight Buycks at the point position, while also shuffling in sophomore guard Junior Cadougan and Smith throughout the game.

The position will likely be fluid for much of the early season as Williams tries to figure out who will be able to best run the team, after not having an incumbent for the first time in a few years.

Last season, Maurice Acker took the position early in preseason camp and never looked back, leading the Big East in three-point shooting percentage (48 percent) and demonstrating the poise needed to handle arguably the most difficult position on the court.

“Dwight was great in practice all week, and did all right Saturday,” Williams said. “I was really impressed with Reggie’s play, and Junior played well too, so we’ll see all three this weekend.”

Junior forward Jae Crowder and redshirt sophomore center Chris Otule were perhaps Marquette’s biggest surprises against the Johnnies and will look to build on their performances this weekend.

Crowder finished with a game-high 15 points while chipping in 10 rebounds, and Otule scored 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds. They will be two important pieces of Marquette’s success this season.

The Panthers and Bison have much taller and longer players than Saint John’s, so the challenge will be tougher for two of Marquette’s more “veteran” players, based on their ages.

“Hopefully Jae and Chris can play like they did Saturday all season,” Williams said. “But other guys have to step up and play well too, otherwise we could be in trouble.”

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