First of all, my apologies on not getting up more posts recently due to that pesky thing called "work."
Marquette continued its brutal stretch against teams ranked in the Top 25 this week with home games against UConn and Syracuse. They lost a tough one at home to UConn but came up with a huge victory against the orange on Saturday.
Does anyone really want to read about the loss to UConn? Me neither, so I'll get right into the recap of the victory against Syracuse.
Marquette dominated 'Cuse for most of this game despite its recent woes against teams that use a 2-3 zone defense. While we had a decent shooting day from the perimeter (6-13), MU was able to penetrate the orange's matchup zone and make some big plays in the paint. At the half Marquette was up by 11 points and seemed to be in control.
But we've seen this before in the last couple weeks, in that Marquette hasn't been able to hold on to a lead in the late stages of the game. That seemed to be the case for the first 15 minutes of the second half, as Syracuse managed to chip away at the lead until the game was tied at one point. In the final couple minutes, MU was able to make some big stops on defense, and with the help of two clutch 3-pointers by Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, they sealed their first victory against Syracuse in Big East play with a final score of 76-70. With this win, Marquette has now defeated every Big East team since it joined the conference in 2005.
As I said before, interior play was crucial in the victory today. MU had a few instances where it tried to make something out of nothing on offense which ended up in a turnover or a poorly missed shot, but they also fed a lot of passes to Jae Crowder in the paint which resulted in a lot of easy buckets and 3-point plays. Jae Crowder's effectiveness inside also lead to putting Fab Melo in foul trouble, as he sat on the bench with four fouls for the most crucial minutes of the game. Did I mention Crowder had 25 points on the afternoon? This kid has been a beast inside for us all season.
Syracuse was pretty evenly matched with MU on the boards (24-22, in favor of MU), but the golden eagles won the battle at the free throw line. Not only did Marquette shoot better from the charity stripe (73% for MU vs. 57% for 'Cuse), but they took 19 more free throws than the orange. Jae Crowder and DJO combined to go 15-17 from the line.
What continues to amaze me is the amount of parity in this league. At the end of the day the two 3-balls from Butler and DJO were what decided the game, and everything else was basically a wash. To those that haven't noticed, a lot of upsets have happened in the Big East this week, which again shows that any of the cellar-dwellers (yes, even DePaul) can knock off the big guys. It makes the daily grind of the Big East that much tougher, knowing that what Ken Pomeroy predicts or what Las Vegas says is basically meaningless once the ball is tipped. Sure, it makes the Big East that much more exciting to watch, but it's also going to give me stomach ulcers by age 30.
Marquette is now embarking on a 2-week road trip with games at Villanova, South Florida, and Georgetown. At this point there's a decent amount of media buzz for us being in the NCAA tournament, but I'll feel more comfortable about it when we have 6 more wins under our belt.