Balanced attack spells victory for Golden Eagles over Friars

1656251_10153755309215635_293178885_nWhen Marquette shook up its starting lineup Thursday against Providence, the results spoke for themselves when the team won 61-50.

The Golden Eagles began the game on a 16-5 run and entered halftime up 31-14 on the Friars, who came in as the hottest team in the Big East on a five-game winning streak.

Coach Buzz Williams said the decision was the result of several factors, one being the desire to prepare for a quick turnaround by spreading out player minutes.

“Providence (was) playing with six players; we had 11, 10 of which played double-figure minutes,” Williams said. “So I thought particularly in the first half if we could somewhat come in waves with energy, playing full-court defensively and full-court offensively. We scored 26 points in transition, which is the highest we’ve scored all year. I think some of it (was) ‘Hey, here’s your chance, what are you going to do with it?’ I don’t care how old you are. It’s just ‘let’s see if this works.’”

JaJuan Johnson, Deonte Burton and Chris Otule contributed to the opening run, but were eventually surpassed in minutes by bench players Davante Gardner, Todd Mayo and Jake Thomas.

Johnson gave Marquette a 6-2 lead less than two minutes into the contest, but took just one more shot over 12 total minutes. Burton finished with an efficient nine points in 15 minutes, while Gardner and starter Jamil Wilson led the way with a 25 combined points over 52 combined minutes. Thomas more than doubled Johnson’s minutes and took three more shots, yet still finished with the same total of three points.

Williams recently praised his team for being more “offensively balanced,” and the trend continued Thursday, as Steve Taylor Jr. was the only Marquette player held off the score sheet. After Thursday’s win, the coach explored his logic behind divvying up playing time.

“Some of our best offensive players are our worst defensive players, and some of our best defensive players are our worst offensive players,” Williams said. “So running them in waves like we did in the first half was kind of a balance of all of it. Not who started, not how old they are, not where they’re from, not what they did the last game or the game before, but what gives us our best chance today from start to finish to win.”

After taking a 19-point lead early in the second half, Marquette allowed a 16-0 Providence run before eventually closing the game out. Some fans voiced their displeasure with the Friars’ furious run, and Williams didn’t shy away from expressing his own discontent.

“I know our fans were booing at our kids, which (made me) maybe as disappointed as I’ve been as the head coach since I’ve been here,” Williams said. “Our kids try, and I want to handle it the right way, but what you don’t see is what we do every day. What you do see is when our kids are in uniform. And what you don’t know is who our kids are as human beings, or their moms or their dads, or their story that led them here.”