MILWAUKEE — Six games have taught Buzz Williams that his Marquette squad can be awfully good defensively.
In fact, he sees signs that this team could be as good defensively as any of his previous four teams during his tenure at the school.
“I’ve been pleased with what we’ve done defensively through these six games,” Williams said. “If you look at the numbers, it is probably as good as it’s ever been through six games during our five years here.”
A casual glance at the box score of the Golden Eagles 79-46 victory over Maryland-Baltimore County Monday night showed a really efficient offense. Marquette assisted on a staggering 28 of 31 made field goals and shot 71.4 percent in the second half.
But it all started on the defensive end. After the Retrievers led 31-30 early in the second half, three steals and a blocked shot sparked a stretch where Marquette made 10 straight field goals. That led to a 32-5 run and the rest was history.
“I think when we are good defensively, our offensive numbers, as good as they appear, it is because we are doing so well defensively,” Williams said. “I don’t think we are behind offensively, but I do think we are ahead of where typically are defensively.”
Evenly dividing minutes between 10 players is something that Williams can do and did against teams like UMBC. It will play off in the long run, but keeps regulars from finding an offensive rhythm that extended minutes provide. Monday night, Junior Cadougan’s 23 minutes led the team, while freshman Jamal Ferguson played the least at 16. A few times in the first half, Williams sent a whole new five on the floor.
“I’m really committed to growing our kids, in every way,” Williams said. “Off the floor, as a student, as a player and there’s growing pains particularly in November and December because I’m going to pay guys minutes and maybe in their mind they’ve earned it, but we don’t teach our guys plays per se, we teach our guys how to play.
“I think they have a concept of what we are trying to do offensively but because they are not getting their typical minutes, they are not getting the number of minutes they need.”
It’s good coaching. And while stretches like the first half Monday will frustrate fans and cause naysayers to overreact, Williams has proved that it’s worked.
“If you study the numbers of our team as the season plays out, through four years, we are much more efficient as the year plays out,” Williams said.
That luxury of playing 10 guys extended minutes probably will be short lived. With a road game against No. 7 Florida on Thursday, followed by Wisconsin on Dec. 8, the schedule doesn’t allow for rotation tinkering.
“I don’t think we can continue to play that same number, maybe we can play that same number, but not those minutes,” Williams said. “I think a little bit of that happened in Maui.”