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.”