MILWAUKEE – To a certain degree, Marquette’s beginning of the season has been bizarre.
There was a tremendous amount of anticipation and eagerness to play Ohio State on an aircraft carrier. For months that’s all the Golden Eagles thought about. The players heard Buzz Williams screaming about Buckeyes all-American Deshaun Thomas in their sleep.
Then all of a sudden there was a tremendous drop and discouragement when the game was canceled.
All of a sudden a young basketball team has to find that energy and emotion in a hurry to play two teams they completely outmatch in every way.
It’s hard. And rare, so rare that Marquette head coach Buzz Williams wasn’t sure how to handle it. He’s never seen it before.
“It has never happened in my career, but there was a lot of buildup to playing Ohio State and it is kind of displaced emotion,” Williams said. “I don’t know. I tried to handle it as best I could and our kids tried to handle it the best they could.”
Maybe that’s to blame for the Golden Eagles’ bland performance against a feisty Southeastern Louisiana team on Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Lions, completely undersized with their tallest player standing just 6-foot-8, actually led in the second half.
The same Southeastern Louisiana team that just days earlier lost to Wisconsin by 40 points. Those same Lions that were picked to finish sixth in the Southland Conference only trailed Marquette by two points with just over four minutes to play.
It was finally when the Golden Eagles fed forward Davante Gardner the ball inside that they put away the Lions. Marquette was good Tuesday when it worked off Gardner and Chris Otule inside. The Golden Eagles weren’t good when they settled for jump shots.
“We didn’t make many tonight, at all,” Williams said of his team’s perimeter shooting. “We were inept at times. Not saying I have all the answers, it’s obvious I don’t, but when we do what we practice, we are okay. When we do what we don’t practice we are really, really bad. We have to have more discipline in what we do in what we practice.”
Williams admitted that he “didn’t give his team the greatest protection.” He wanted them to learn on their own. It’s too early to tell if they did. Marquette got a scare, but survived.
Now it’s off to Maui. The trip couldn’t come at a better time. With the mass chaos of the first few weeks, the trip will be beneficial. Unless somehow the Lahaina Civic Center court has too much condensation, the anticipation for this trip won’t come with a giant let down. There’s no reason not to get up for a trip to Hawaii.
“I think Maui, as difficult as it may be, will teach us a lot,” Williams said. “Three games in three days, everybody will have to be on point to have a chance. I think we have done some good things, but the things we need to work on is pretty evident.”