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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Zoning in: MU picks up win against Syracuse’s 2-3 defense

Jae Crowder helped Marquette take down Syracuse last Saturday. Photo by Cy Kondrick / [email protected]

Marquette’s struggles against zone defenses are well known by Golden Eagle fans. Saturday, the men battled against Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim’s prestigious 2-3 zone, so it was assumed the struggles would continue against the then-No. 9/10 Orange (18-4, 5-4 Big East).

Not quite.

Marquette (14-8, 5-4 Big East) left the game victorious, 76-70, and put up 42 points in the first half – its third-highest scoring first half of the season and second-highest against a top-25 opponent – against the zone.

“We let too much penetration in the first half by the guards,” Boeheim said of his defense. “In the second half we did a much better job of stopping that.”

Much of that penetration was initiated by senior guard Dwight Buycks, who dished out a career-high eight assists.

Junior forward Jae Crowder told Buycks before the game that Buycks had to penetrate the zone like Villanova’s senior guard Corey Fisher, who had 16 points and seven assists in an 83-72 victory at Syracuse on Jan. 22.

“I told him you have to do that if we’re going to have a good offensive game,” Crowder said, “and I think that’s what he did. He looked for other people, and he created for others.”

Crowder added that redshirt sophomore center Chris Otule’s contributions to Marquette’s effective zone offense shouldn’t be undervalued, even if his contributions didn’t show up in the box score.

“As you can tell when he’s out of the game, it puts me at (center) and it makes our offense difficult to run smoothly,” the 6-foot-6 Crowder said. “But when he’s in the game, he can occupy that big man to make me run free on the baseline.”

Boeheim said “a lot of” Crowder’s game-high 25 points came in the area of the zone that was the center’s responsibility.

Senior forward Jimmy Butler, who had 19 points, said aggression was the difference between Marquette’s performance against Syracuse’s zone compared to other games in which it faced the zone.

“We just stayed aggressive the whole game,” Butler said. “We emphasized it before the game in our shoot around. It’s just like a man (defense): stay aggressive, attack the gaps and look for the guys going baseline, and when it gets to the middle, if you can’t shoot it, then kick it out to the guards.”

The added emphasis on aggression was noticeable throughout the game, as Marquette attempted 19 more free throws than Syracuse, 33-14, and made 24 of them (72.7 percent).

“We want to get 22 free throw makes in every game we play,” junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom said. “So the key was attack the middle, break down their zone and try to make them foul us. I think we did a great job doing that.”

Coach Buzz Williams said his offense’s play was vital to the team’s overall success Saturday.

“I thought our offense helped our defense. You take a quick or a bad (shot) or a turnover against them, it’s a layup on the other end,” Williams said. “So your offense has to help your defense, and we haven’t always done a great job with that, and it’s a delicate balance.”

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