Lockett playing key role for Golden Eagles

MILWAUKEE — Trent Lockett glanced at the weather app on his phone Friday and saw two drastically different numbers.

The senior transfer from Arizona State still has Tempe, Ariz., set as a favorite on his weather app, and Friday’s high there was 74 degrees.  Meanwhile in Milwaukee, Lockett walked to the Al McGuire Center for practice in 4-degree weather with a wind chill near minus-20.

While his mind temporarily went back to the warm walks to class at Arizona State, the Minnesota native knew what he was getting into when he transferred to Marquette. Coming off back-to-back double-digit scoring games for the first time as a Golden Eagle, Lockett is using a new word to describe how he’s beginning to feel 19 games into his time in Milwaukee: comfortable.

“I’m would definitely say I’m hitting my stride, especially with the team and the coaching staff,” Lockett said. “Having basically half the season under my belt, I’m really feeling comfortable with my team and the surroundings.”

Prior to Marquette’s last two games, Lockett had reached 10 points just once this season. As the Sun Devils’ leading scorer the past two seasons, Lockett was expected to make an immediate impact and help Marquette make up for the loss of its two leading scorers to the NBA.

Though it hasn’t worked out that way, Lockett has found a way to play 26.7 minutes per game and remain in the starting lineup by being a scrappy, hustle player. His shooting accuracy, never lower than 48.7 percent at Arizona State, has dropped to 38.1 percent this season.

“We’ve expected a lot of him and if you look at his numbers you wouldn’t necessarily say we’ve got a lot from him,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “But he’s got a lot of Jimmy Butler in him in that he’s really hard for us to take off the floor. What he does for us defensively, the physicality that he plays with, he’s been a man on the glass for us, our best perimeter rebounder, and it’s not even close.”

Williams believes Lockett is turning up his play because he senses how close he is to making his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona State made the NIT in Lockett’s freshman year but went a combined 22-40 during his sophomore and junior seasons.

When big man Davante Gardner was ejected in the second half of Marquette’s win over South Florida on Monday, Lockett scored eight of his 10 points after the ejection to help pick up the scoring load.

“He’s never had a chance to play on a team that’s played in the (NCAA Tournament),” Williams said. “I think he’s hungry to have an opportunity to do that.”

Bold statement: Louisville center Gorgui Dieng gave Marquette quite a compliment while meeting with local reporters Friday.

The preseason Big East Defensive Player of the Year said the Golden Eagles are the best team in the Big East.

“That’s just because Gorgui likes me,” Williams said. “I’ve known Gorgui for a long time, and I know all the people around Gorgui and I think he’s a great kid. He’s arguably the best center in the country on both ends of the floor.”

Marquette was one of Dieng’s four finalists coming out of Huntington Prep in West Virginia, but the native of Senegal decided on Louisville.

Otule still undecided: The NCAA has already granted Marquette center Chris Otule a sixth season due to medical hardship, but he still hasn’t decided if he’ll return next season.

“Haven’t thought on it,” Otule said. “Buzz and I will talk after the season.”

Otule has been plagued by injuries his entire career. He played just three games his freshman year due to a broken foot and missed all but eight games last season with a torn ACL. He has returned this season and started all 19 of Marquette’s games. Not much a of a threat on offense, Otule has been an anchor of the interior defense and has appeared to get more mobility back of late.

Against Providence, Otule scored just four points but blocked four shots and was active in altering numerous others in a season-high 20 minutes. Williams called it the best game Otule has ever played.

“I’m doing good,” Otule said of his health. “I still have to do a lot of rehab even though my knee is feeling good to make sure it doesn’t buckle on me at all and make sure it stays in shape.”

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