NCAA BK

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 - 8:30 PM ET
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Mississippi-Marquette Preview

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Marquette cruised to victory in the opening round of the Paradise Jam tournament behind another tremendous high-scoring display.

While Mississippi also advanced, another ugly offensive effort proved difficult to overcome.

The Rebels could struggle to keep up with the 21st-ranked Golden Eagles when the teams meet in the Caribbean for the second round of this tournament Sunday night.

Shooting an impressive 55.6 percent from the floor, Marquette (3-0) ranks among the top 10 in the country with an average of 95.0 points. The Golden Eagles continued their offensive prowess Friday, shooting 57.4 percent - including 9 of 19 from 3-point range - in defeating Winthrop 95-73.

Five players scored in double figures, most notably senior Darius Johnson-Odom and sophomore Vander Blue. Johnson-Odom, scoring a team-best 20.0 points per game, matched his average while Blue scored a career-high 26.

"I felt really good (Friday) and my confidence has been up because of the players I'm playing with," said Blue, who totaled 24 points in the first two games. "Darius and some of those seniors told me to keep pushing and I feel like this was a credit to them."

Friday's victory certainly pleased coach Buzz Williams, who seeks a sixth consecutive 4-0 start, because a loss would have forced his Golden Eagles to play Saturday instead of getting a day off.

"We came here to win all three games and you can't do that without winning the first one," he said. "We had some issues with the travel so it will be nice to get a day where we can get back in our routine and then focus on Sunday."

While Marquette seems to be clicking on all cylinders, Mississippi has struggled immensely despite opening 3-0 for the second time in three seasons. The Rebels are shooting 37.5 percent from the floor, 17.6 percent from 3-point range and 53.2 percent at the free-throw line.

They struggled in all three facets Friday and trailed by six at halftime before rallying to defeat Drake 63-59.

"All wins are beautiful, trust me," coach Andy Kennedy said. "I'm really proud of our team because we've struggled offensively all season. We can find no rhythm but we're still finding ways to win games, which I think speaks to the toughness of this group."

Mississippi made just 18 of 38 free throws (47.4 percent) on Saturday. Forward Murphy Holloway, averaging a team-high 10.3 rebounds, is 4 of 15 at the foul line.

"It's abysmal," he said. "Last year we shot (75.6) percent and led the SEC. This year we're really struggling, and it becomes contagious."

The Rebels surely also need to take better care of the basketball. They committed 20 turnovers against the Bulldogs - their highest total in nearly two years.

Dundrecous Nelson led the team with 16 points while freshman Jarvis Summers had 14 off the bench.

Mississippi went 1-8 versus ranked teams over the previous two seasons. It also has lost seven of eight matchups with Top 25 opponents on neutral courts since defeating then-No. 19 Notre Dame 59-56 in the second round of the 2001 NCAA tournament.

Whoever prevails in this first-ever meeting between the Rebels and the Golden Eagles will face the Norfolk State-TCU winner in Monday's championship game.

Tagged: Marquette, Mississippi, Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue

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