Marquette ready to take on red-hot Davidson
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)
Marquette had to do many things right to earn a piece of the Big East Conference regular season title and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.
One thing coach Buzz Williams said his team didn't do was play a complete game, which the Golden Eagles will likely need to beat surging Davidson in Thursday's second-round East Regional game.
Fourteenth-seeded Davidson (26-7) has won 17 games in a row, a streak powered by a potent offense, especially from 3-point range.
The Golden Eagles (23-8), who have won four of their last five, believe having had to fight for a share of the Big East crown with Louisville and Georgetown has them prepared to play against a variety of styles in the tournament. They'll get a chance to prove it against the tough, disciplined Wildcats.
The keys to Marquette's success against Davidson will be hitting the offensive boards and limiting their turnovers.
''Offensive rebounds create more possessions. Those have been critical for us,'' Williams said Wednesday. ''And then we need to decrease our turnovers. It can't be as high as it's been the last couple of weeks because everything is magnified, as you guys know. Those are two things over the past month we've really tried to concentrate on more to create more possessions.''
It's been effective the Golden Eagles' past five games.
Marquette has outrebounded opponents four times and is plus-20 over the past two, though one of those was last week's 73-65 Big East quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame. Even though the Golden Eagles outrebounded the Irish 42-31 and shot 47 percent from the field, they had nine more turnovers than Notre Dame.
Still, Marquette usually capitalizes those extra possessions, especially inside the arc. The Golden Eagles rank 17th in 2-point field goals, shooting 53 percent. Conversely, the Golden Eagles struggle from 3-point range, where they rank 312th and shoot 30 percent.
Davidson, on the other hand, is shooting 46 percent overall and 37 percent from 3-point range.
''Well, we can't shoot and they've proven they can,'' Williams said about the 3-point issue. ''It's important. Every team we've played knows we can't shoot. We understand we can't shoot. That's why paint touches are so important.''
Marquette players also say their Big East showing is important to their postseason prospects. Though known as a defense-oriented league, conference teams still showed enough offensive variations that the Golden Eagles aren't fazed by anything they'll see in the tournament.
''The Big East is a very well-rounded league,'' Marquette guard Trent Lockett said. ''There are teams that like to slow it down, and at the same time there are teams that play at a lot faster pace. I think that will help us going into the tournament.''
Marquette will certainly need that preparation against a Davidson team it believes is underrated. The Wildcats certainly aren't strangers to the NCAA tournament.
They believe they are capable of making their deepest run since the 2008 team that lost in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion Kansas. That achievement is significant to veteran Davidson players such as Jake Cohen, Nik Cochran and J.P. Kuhlman.
''That was really nice to see them be able to do that and it absolutely had an effect on the way I saw Davidson,'' said Cohen, named the Southern Conference's player of the year after averaging 14.8 points this season.
As juniors, they helped the Wildcats return to the tournament following a three-year absence. This season, they and junior forward De'Mon Brooks (13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds per game) comprise one of the field's most dangerous teams and its most accurate from the foul line (80 percent).
''Last year they were relieved to be in the tournament,'' Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. ''This year they're excited to be in the tournament. There's a big difference between those two emotions.
''I believe they were on a mission from the beginning of this year and handled it very well despite the adversity of a 9-7 record back in early January, and as a result there's excitement that, hey, we've had a rhythm throughout the season. That now must become the rhythm of the postseason.''
Davidson has set the bar high in that respect, shooting 49.3 percent from the field while holding opponents to 39 percent during the streak. The Golden Eagles have won by an average margin of 18.4 points during that span.
So while Davidson is mindful of Marquette's strengths, the Wildcats have done a lot to make the Golden Eagles nervous as well.
''Everybody is clicking on all cylinders from the starters to the bench,'' Brooks said, ''so I feel like right now we're playing our best basketball at our best time.''