LEXINGTON, Ky. — Chris Otule had been through hell and back in his basketball career.
Marquette’s starting center had played in 88 games over the course of five seasons and never posted a double-double.
The redshirt senior picked an opportune time for his first.
Boasting a gigantic size advantage over Davidson’s talented but small frontcourt, Otule scored 11 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds in Marquette’s 59-58 comeback victory.
“I told him throughout the week, as I did Davante (Gardner), if it’s a skill game, they win,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I thought that Chris’ physicality, Chris’ length and his strength all were really important.
“I thought his offensive rebounds were absolutely critical. And there were two or three offensive rebounds that turned into scrums for loose balls. I’m so happy for him, considering all that he has been through.”
Also chipping in 11 rebounds was senior guard Trent Lockett, who transferred from Arizona State last summer. Though he shot just 2 of 7 from the field, Lockett continued to play his role and made winning plays in his NCAA tournament debut.
“Isn’t that something?” Williams said. “I’m so proud of him. So thankful that he’s here. Just have such admiration for the diligence and the consistency of who he is as a human and who he is as a worker.
“I mean, I can’t take him out. I’m looking out there at him, and the pace of the game obviously was a grind, but they’re just knocking his head off on every screen and he just keeps going, keeps going, offensive rebound, loose ball, scrum. And he had more rebounds than he had shot attempts in 38 minutes.”
Lockett hasn’t been the scorer he was for the Sun Devils, but he’s continued to set the energy and effort tone all season.
“We didn’t win that game today, we won it back in November when (Williams) was killing us in the gym,” Lockett said. “Our work ethic was the reason we won the game.”
Limiting the turnovers: In its losses, Marquette has doomed itself with turnovers. Early on Thursday, the Golden Eagles looked as if they were going to play sloppy yet again.
Marquette turned the ball over on its first three possessions, but the Golden Eagles cleaned up their act and only had three turnovers in the second half.
Williams made it a point Wednesday to say his point guards had to be better with the ball, and they came through. Junior Cadougan didn’t turn the ball over in 27 minutes, while Derrick Wilson had just one in 13 minutes.
“You can almost say that when we’ve lost it’s because our turnover rate has been too high,” Williams said. “Twenty-four percent of our possessions we turned over in our last game.
“I don’t know what our points per possession were in the second half, but it was pretty good.”
Lid finally broke: Before the crazy stretch in which it couldn’t miss, Marquette was on pace to shoot a season-low field-goal percentage.
In fact, the Golden Eagles left many scrambling for the record books to find the last time they had shot under 30 percent.
While the final shooting percentage of .345 is still one of the worst efforts of the season, Marquette broke the seal on the basket in the nick of time. The Golden Eagles made their last four shots, including three from beyond the arc.
The worst 3-point shooting team in the NCAA tournament and 313th in the nation, Marquette was 1 of 11 from long distance before Vander Blue and Jamil Wilson hit the three in a row.
Williams said Wednesday that his team “couldn’t shoot,” and that statement was factual for 38 minutes of Thursday’s game.
“We had to take the shots,” Blue said. “It was win or go home, do or die. You have faith in yourself. I shoot shots like that every single day in practice, Jamil as well. We know Buzz would want us to shoot it. We had to shoot it.”