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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Emotional Williams pushes Golden Eagles to Sweet 16

Marquette's 66-62 victory over Syracuse means coach Buzz Williams will lead Marquette to its first Sweet 16 appearance since his tenure as coach began in the 2008-'09 season. Photo Courtesy of Marquette Images.

CLEVELAND — If CBS was searching for a signature shot for its “One Shining Moment” video montage the network compiles after the NCAA Tournament, it may have found it Sunday night in Cleveland.

Immediately after coach Buzz Williams and Marquette took down Syracuse 66-62 to earn a trip to the “Sweet 16.” Williams sprinted to his wife, Corey, and children, and shared a moment of joyful tears and hugs together.

It was a scene straight out of a movie, and one that gave anyone watching both goose bumps and a lump in their throat. When asked about the post-game embrace, Williams responded with another of the life lessons the coach is known to impart.

“It’s not about me,” he said. “I’m just as happy that I get to experience this as I am that my wife and my four children get to experience it because they’re the ones that have to go through the sacrifices of living a coach’s life.”

The Golden Eagles entered the NCAA Tournament with the label of a run-and-gun team that couldn’t play defense, a negative description that fell on Williams’ shoulders.

But in a span of two games, Marquette has allowed just 55 and 62 points in two tournament wins, and it was Williams who provided a defensive blueprint that outdid a two-time Sweet 16 coach in Chris Mack of Xavier and a Hall of Fame coach in Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. But in typical fashion, Williams made sure it wasn’t about him.

After all, it was he who decided that 6-foot-7 senior forward Jimmy Butler should guard Xavier’s 6-foot junior guard Tu Holloway on Friday night. Holloway, who averaged 19.7 points per game on the year, scored only five against Marquette.

And it was Williams who instructed his players to double team Syracuse senior forward Rick Jackson any time he touched the ball Sunday night and held him to seven points and four rebounds. Jackson, a second team All-Big East selection, averaged 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds entering the game.

“Our guys have gotten much better at being able to execute a scouting report over the last month,”  Williams said. “And I think through that they have built more pride in what they’re about defensively, because I think they’re much more confident in what they’re doing.”

Williams has recruited the right group of hardworking players the past three seasons who have bought into what he is selling. In the span of three days, that group has transformed from a team on the bubble into a “Sweet 16” contender.

“Coach Buzz does a great job of motivating his players to be the best players on and off the court,” junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom said. “And I don’t know if I can speak for (others), but I think I made a great decision (coming to Marquette).”

Regardless of what may or may not happen in the future — there are rumors swirling that Williams may replace recently-fired Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel — Williams and the rest of the Golden Eagles are playing for the present and nothing else.

“I feel like we, as a group of guys, from the coaching staff to the players, we’re doing the right things throughout the season to get to this point,” junior forward Jae Crowder said. “So when you get to this point, it feels like hard work paying off.”

Williams has preached all year that his team’s character would be revealed over the course of the season. Sunday night it happened to Williams, and it revealed a coach and man who defines hard work and is finally being rewarded for it.

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