Mount St. Mary’s-Marquette Preview
After advancing to the regional semifinals of the NCAA
tournament for the first time in eight years, Marquette coach Buzz
Williams was rewarded with a contract extension that included a
major pay increase.
The pressure will certainly be on Williams for his team to not
only replicate, but also exceed, those results.
The 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles open their fourth season under
Williams on Friday night against Mount St. Mary’s in the first
meeting between the programs.
Although his players say they didn’t notice, rumors began to
circulate during last season’s NCAA tournament that Williams was
going to leave Marquette. The Golden Eagles’ season ended with an
81-63 loss to second-seeded North Carolina in the regional
semifinals – their first trip past the second round since the 2003
Final Four – and Williams didn’t leave.
In fact, he signed an extension.
“I’m not leaving Chris (Otule), I’m not leaving Jae (Crowder),
I’m not leaving DJ (Darius Johnson-Odom) and no dollar amount is
going to make me leave them,” Williams said. “And that may mean we
get our (butts) beat all year long this year. I don’t know.
“But like momma says, ‘Don’t mess with happy,’ and I’m
Williams is likely pleased about returning three of his starters
and two of his top three scorers from last season’s 22-15 team.
Johnson-Odom averaged a team-best 15.8 points while Crowder
averaged 11.8 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds.
“We have high expectations on ourselves for the team that we’re
bringing back,” Johnson-Odom said. “People are going to see it’s
more than just toughness. We have some real talented guys.”
Although Johnson-Odom seems eager to shed the gritty label, this
season’s team should still be physical.
The 6-foot-8, 290-pound Davante Gardner will be counted on to
patrol the paint and disrupt defenses. He made big strides over the
course of his freshman season, averaging 7.2 points and 4.5
rebounds in seven games during Marquette’s run through the Big East
and NCAA tournaments.
He averaged 4.0 points and 1.7 rebounds during the regular
“He’s huge,” said the 6-foot-11 Otule, who averaged 5.1 points
and 3.6 rebounds as a sophomore. “He’s huge to move, huge to push
Mount St. Mary’s could have some trouble matching up with
Gardner considering no one on its roster weighs more than 230
The Mountaineers, who went 11-21 last season and finished tied
for sixth in the Northeast Conference, are expected to be led by
Lamar Trice. The senior guard averaged a team-best 13.3 points last
season and was named the conference’s most improved player.
Mount St. Mary’s returns four of its top five scorers from last
season, but that might not be enough to upset the Golden
Since becoming a Division I program in 1988-89, the Mountaineers
are 0-12 against Big East teams and 1-15 against Top 25 opponents,
with the lone victory coming over No. 21 Georgia Tech in 1995.
They’re also 3-20 in season openers since 1988, while the Golden
Eagles have won 10 straight since a 67-54 loss to South Alabama on
Nov. 14, 2000.
“They’re ready to play,” Williams said of his team. “Their
spirit is great, their energy has been fantastic and I’m excited
about where we’re at.”