Marquette-West Virginia Preview
West Virginia’s Kevin Jones may be the favorite to win Big East
player of the year honors, but Marquette’s Jae Crowder is making a
push to be considered.
Crowder and the 10th-ranked Golden Eagles look for their
first-ever victory in Morgantown and fifth in a row overall when
they face Jones and the Mountaineers on Friday night.
In a matchup featuring the top two scorers in the Big East in
Jones, who averages 20.3 points and a league-best 11.2 rebounds,
and Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom (18.7 points), Crowder will try
to continue his push for postseason honors.
He has averaged 26.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the last three
games for the Golden Eagles (23-5, 12-3) and has scored at least 20
in five of his last seven contests.
After being named conference player of the week Monday, Crowder
had 27 points and seven rebounds in an 82-65 win over Rutgers on
Wednesday. He went 11 of 14 from the field and added four steals
and three blocked shots.
“He’s playing at a very high clip,” coach Buzz Williams said.
“His efficiency numbers are staggering. He’s in a really good space
emotionally, physically and mentally right now.”
Led by Crowder and Johnson-Odom, who has scored 20 or more
points in four straight games, the Golden Eagles have won four in a
row and 11 of 12. They have already earned a first-round bye for
the Big East tournament and are looking to secure a top-four finish
in the conference, which would give them an automatic berth in the
Marquette is tied for second in the league, two games ahead of
Georgetown and South Florida with three remaining. With the
head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bulls, the Golden Eagles can
clinch a double-bye with a victory Friday.
“If you can get the double-bye, the chance of winning the
tournament are much higher,” Crowder said. “Last year, we were on
the other end of it and had to play right away. We want to change
that this year.”
The situation is much more desperate for West Virginia (17-11,
7-8), which is 1-6 against ranked opponents.
The Mountaineers have lost three of four and six of eight. They
shot a season-worst 31.5 percent in a 71-44 defeat at Notre Dame on
West Virginia was only down two at the break, but the Irish went
on a 17-4 run to start the second half as they outscored the
Mountaineers 41-16 over the final 20 minutes. West Virginia shot 6
of 27 (22.2 percent) in the second half.
“It’s frustrating but we have to learn how to play through it,”
Jones said. “We did not. We kind of gave up at a certain point.
That is not acceptable no matter how bad we are losing and no
matter how many shots they are making. We can never give up and we
Jones scored 15 points and had eight rebounds. He’s averaging
16.8 points the last four contests after putting up 22.9 per game
in the previous nine.
West Virginia has lost three straight at home. It last lost four
in a row in Morgantown during the 2002-03 season.
The Mountaineers have won all four home games against Marquette,
but the Golden Eagles defeated them twice last season, including in
the conference tournament by a 67-61 score March 9.