Friday, March 18, 2011
Marquette makes statement against Xavier
By Brian Bennett
CLEVELAND -- If you go by the seedings, Marquette was the 11th -- and last -- Big East team to make the NCAA tournament field. Appropriately enough, the selection committee awarded the Golden Eagles a No. 11 seed.
They sure didn't look like a team just happy to be here Friday night. Talk about hot in Cleveland. Marquette thoroughly dismantled a good Xavier team, one that went 15-1 in the Atlantic 10 regular season. The Golden Eagles shot a blistering 57 percent in the first half, made half their shots in the second half and led by as many as 18 in a 66-55 victory.
The offensive effort wasn't a surprise for a team that led the Big East in scoring this year. Defense made this look like a dangerous tournament team.
Marquette limited Xavier guard Tu Holloway to 5 points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Xavier's star guard Tu Holloway went just 1-for-8 from the field, not making his lone shot until about 12 minutes left. Marquette threw multiple defenders at him, doubling him off ball screens and thoroughly frustrating him the entire night. The rest of his teammates didn't fare much better.
"That was one of our best defensive efforts ever," Marquette guard Dwight Buycks said. "We took their star out of the game, which was everything. They didn't really have any response."
That kind of defense hasn't been a staple for Buzz Williams' team this year, which is why it remained maddeningly inconsistent. Marquette came into the NCAA tournament just 7-8 in its last 15 games, and it lost its final regular-season contest to lowly Seton Hall. It was also good enough to beat Notre Dame, Connecticut and Syracuse this season.
The Golden Eagles certainly own the tools to be a good defensive team. They are blessed with quick guards who can pressure the perimeter and disrupt sets. Jimmy Butler, at 6-foot-7, can bother shooters with his length, and he really hounded the shorter Holloway on Friday night.
It's more of a concentration thing. Forward Jae Crowder said the team rarely practices offense in practice anymore. The majority of the sessions are focused on getting stops. Williams called Friday's effort the best performance relative to the scouting report his team has had all year long.
"We've got a lot of people who can score the ball," Buycks said. "Defense will get us where we're trying to go."
Where they're going is to Sunday's third round. And if they get a rematch with Syracuse, whom they've already beaten this year, that might not be the end. Not bad for the last team from the Big East to get in.
"We want to be the last one to stay in," Crowder said.