N. Colorado-Marquette Preview

Marquette had to make some extreme adjustments in its last game

following a spate of injuries.

After a long layoff, the 11th-ranked Golden Eagles get some of

their frontcourt depth back Saturday when they host Northern

Colorado while trying to remain unbeaten.

Coach Buzz Williams saw starting center Chris Otule go down with

a knee injury in the early minutes of Marquette’s 79-77 victory

over Washington on Dec. 6. In practices later that week, freshman

forward Juan Anderson hurt his shoulder and junior swingman Jamil

Wilson sprained his ankle, leaving the Golden Eagles (9-0) with

eight available players for their 79-61 victory last Saturday over

Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Jae Crowder had 21 points, and Marquette forced 25 turnovers

that led to 34 points despite players taking on new roles.

“We were just out of sync at times, but I thought our guys were

trying to hang in there and trying to get back in a groove,”

Williams said. “At times we did. At times we didn’t.”

While there is no timetable for the 6-foot-11 Otule to return,

the 6-7 Wilson is expected to be available. Williams is also

leaning on 6-8, 290-pound sophomore Davante Gardner and fellow

second-year guard Vander Blue to chip in on the glass.

“I thought his energy was good,” said Williams of Gardner, who

had 14 points and seven rebounds in a career-high 30 minutes in his

first start. “We have to continue to evolve how to figure out how

to best play Davante.

“Getting Jamil back Saturday will help some, and then hopefully

we can get Juan back and potentially Chris back in the next couple

of weeks and that will help defensively.”

Blue, who has more than doubled his scoring average to 10.9

points while contributing 4.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals

per game, knows he has to help pick up the slack.

“We have to get in there a little bit because we’re not that big

(with Otule out),” said Blue, who also had 14 points and seven

rebounds – all on the defensive end. “Chris is a big factor. He

does a lot of little things. Coach tells us, `Now everybody has to

rebound. Now it’s a team effort.'”

Darius Johnson-Odom, who averages a team-best 18.8 points, will

try to bounce back after being held to a season-low 10. Marquette,

which hasn’t started 10-0 since 2001-02, is one of nine remaining

unbeaten teams in Division I.

Northern Colorado (3-6) has dropped two of three, including a

71-65 loss to Denver on Wednesday. Tate Unruh hit five 3-pointers

and finished with a career-high 19 points for the Bears, but they

never recovered from an 11-0 run by the Pioneers to start the

second half.

Another issue for the Bears was the 18 turnovers that led to 25

points for Denver. Northern Colorado has committed 16 or more

turnovers in five of its six losses, partially offsetting its 42.9

percent shooting from 3-point range.

Paul Garnica, who leads the team with 14.4 points and 3.7

assists per game, has made 23 of 44 (52.3 percent) from beyond the

arc.

This is the first meeting between the teams.