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

MU loses ‘battle of the boards’ against Huskies

Coach Buzz Williams said other than defensive field goal percentage winning the battle of the boards is “probably the most important thing” for his team to focus on.

Through the first eight Big East games, it seems he’s on to something. Marquette’s record  (13-8, 4-4 Big East) reflects its ability to rebound including its 76-68 loss to No. 5/5 Connecticut (17-2, 5-2 Big East) Tuesday night.

Marquette lost the battle of the boards 39-34 to a Connecticut team that boasted a front-line featuring no player shorter than 6-feet-8-inches at any time. Williams said Connecticut’s length and size played a factor in its victory.

“That’s just who they are,” Williams said. “They are long, they are athletic; they are long at every position. Obviously, we can’t duplicate what they can. But they are long at every position, not just inside.”

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said there was a strategy necessary for this game given the differences between Marquette’s personnel and his team’s.

“The chess match was: Were they going to go small and quick, which they did, and could we be big and strong enough?” Calhoun said. “Early, we were able to get the big and strong part.”

Senior forward Jimmy Butler said the team did a decent job of dealing with Connecticut’s size.

“They got a few blocks but we drew plenty of fouls,” Butler said. “I think we boxed them out, but they still beat us on the boards.”

Part of being a good rebounding team revolves around sheer effort, something Calhoun said his team showed a great deal of against Marquette.

“Our last key was we’ll outwork them,” Calhoun said. “I said (to the team that) in this game, you will be challenged to be outworked because I haven’t seen anybody in this league play harder than Marquette, and I think (Tuesday) we played equally hard.”

Connecticut entered the game as the second-best shot blocking team in the country, 6.9 per game, but officially only had three for the game. Whether the box score showed it or not, Calhoun said his players consistently got their hands on the ball.

“Whether we blocked the shots or not we got our hands on the ball, late even,” Calhoun said. “When they tried to challenge we knew we had Alex (Oriahki) or Charles (Okwandu) waiting for them at the end.”

Marquette’s starting front-line featured only one player taller than 6-foot-6 who played more than 10 minutes, redshirt sophomore Chris Otule, who only saw two minutes of action in the second half.

Otule’s limited action put the much undersized junior Jae Crowder, listed at 6-foot-6, in charge of playing center. Despite the size difference he faced, he nearly pulled out a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.

“He definitely was in there on the boards but that’s what Jae does,” Butler said. “I think he’s going to be really good if he keeps working and not be scared to go up against 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11, seven footers night-in-and-night-out.”

A lack of size and length will continue to work against Marquette, including in this Saturday’s game against Syracuse.

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