MILWAUKEE — It was a historic day for Marquette University both on and off the court Saturday.
While the school officially announced plans to leave the Big East Conference, the Golden Eagles made history on the court, as well.
Marquette’s 71-51 victory over Savannah State was the program’s 1,500th of all-time. While it was believed that the school was the 43rd institution in NCAA Division I history to reach the mark, Illinois State won its 1,500th earlier in the week, so MU is actually the 44th.
Regardless, it’s still an impressive feat achieved in the university’s 96th year of basketball.
“That’s awesome,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I’m thankful to be a part of it. Obviously I’ve contributed the least through those 1,500 over the 96 years. My response to that would be is that tells you the commitment level of every president, AD and basketball coach that’s been in these chairs long before we got there.
“To win 1,500 games and only (43) other schools can say that — that tells you how important men’s basketball is at Marquette.”
Williams is actually far from contributing the least. Saturday marked his 103rd win at MU, making him the fifth-winningest coach of the 16 head coaches in school history.
Freshman showing promise: Steve Taylor is as raw of a talent as there is, but there’s little doubt that the talent lies within him.
Saturday was Taylor’s finest showing, and he offered just a glimpse of the talent that has the coaching staff excited.
“When his brain slows down just a little bit, not his activity level, just his brain, I think he’s going to be a star,” Williams said. “I think he’s really good. I just think he has ‘what day is it,’ ‘what final am I taking,’ ‘why did Buzz holler at me like he did,’ ‘what play are we running,’ ‘I forgot which way we were guarding ball-screens’ — it’s just a lot of things. From Labor Day through now, a lot is thrown at these kids. As it plays itself out, I think he’s going to be really good.”
With MU very lackadaisical in the first half, Taylor provided a spark, scoring all 10 of his points and grabbing three of his six rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.
“I thought Juan (Anderson), Chris (Otule) and Davante (Gardner) absolutely got their brains handed to them by No. 34 and No. 22 in the first half,” Williams said. I thought they got whipped, whipped.
“I thought if Steve Taylor hadn’t made the three baskets and his free throws and had three or four rebounds, it probably would have been a tie game. I thought he was great in the first half. Can he continue that productivity level? I don’t know. But his activity level suggests that he can. He was really good in the first half.”
Finals hangover? The Golden Eagles were actually almost late coming back out of the locker room for the second half.
The reason why? Williams was all over his team for the effort they gave in the first half.
“As soon as we got into the locker room, he yelled at us until it was time to come back on the floor,” senior point guard Junior Cadougan said. “(He was) just telling us that we have no margin. The only way we could do good and win was to play hard and to play hard all the time. We aren’t good enough to sit back and lay back. He told us we just have to play hard. He doesn’t know why, we don’t know why we came out flat but we adjusted to what he said and came out with the win.”
It was a whirlwind of a week for MU, starting with Rick Majerus’ funeral and an emotional win over in-state rival Wisconsin last Saturday. Then there were finals, which included four days off from practice. Though finals are stressful for any college student, Cadougan refused to use that as an excuse.
“I would just say it’s another game,” Cadougan said. “No excuses. We signed up to come to college and having exams is part of being a student athlete. I don’t think that played part in it at all.”
Rare trip: Wednesday will mark the first time in school history that MU will play at UW-Green Bay.
Green Bay was picked to finish third in the Horizon League, but has struggled to a 3-7 start. The Phoenix are led by Brian Wardle, the seventh leading scorer in MU history.
Marquette leads the all-time series 9-2, with Green Bay’s last win coming in 1995.