MILWAUKEE — Throw who the opponent was out the window; the Marquette University men’s basketball team needed a performance like this.
Putting together what may have been its most complete performance of the season, Marquette came out of the gates hot and didn’t let up the rest of the way in an 86-50 rout of IUPUI at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Sure, a resounding win over a team picked to finish last in the Summit League isn’t going to cure all that has ailed the Golden Eagles, but Saturday afternoon’s performance was significant progress in getting Marquette back to the team it wants to be.
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“A lot of people will downplay it since it’s IUPUI and not Ohio State, but I think it’s the first step for us to take in going the right direction,” Marquette forward Juan Anderson said. “For us, it’s big. It was definitely a complete game for us.”
After not playing for a week and having practice schedules altered because of finals, Marquette coach Buzz Williams was thoroughly pleased with how his team came out against the Jaguars. There were no signs of sloppiness or rust after what was a stressful week for any student-athlete.
“Not to be critical of IUPUI at all, but I thought our energy, our body language, our attitudes, how we played for one another, our toughness level, how hard we competed per possession (were good),” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “Those are the things you have to have to win. When those things are inconsistent, which they have been, that doesn’t mean your talent is bad, it means that you are immature. We have to continue to mature and continue to improve.
“Our work over the last few days, it resonated today. Finals week at Marquette, just like anywhere else, it’s hard to establish any sort of rhythm.”
After IUPUI tied the game at 2-all, Marquette rattled off a 16-0 run to build an 18-2 lead it never relented. Anderson carried the Golden Eagles during the stretch by knocking down three 3-pointers, matching his career high for made triples less than seven minutes into the game. “I think it was big,” Anderson said of the quick start. “It set the tone for the rest of the game, and it gave us confidence. It allowed us to get out in transition and do things of that nature, things we like to do. I thought it was big for us so we didn’t have any lapses. The previous games we have lost, we’ve had some lapses. We tried to work on that and came out aggressive.”
The Golden Eagles, who have struggled to shoot all season long, shot 64.9 percent from the field, their highest total since shooting 65.0 percent on Dec. 28, 2002 against Grambling.
Marquette had assists on 15 of its first 16 made field goals and finished with 28 assists on 37 made baskets, the Golden Eagles’ third-most in a game since 1996.
“I don’t think the ball ever got stuck,” Williams said. “I think we were making the next play for the next person, for the next pass, for the next possession. Those are good things.”
Williams was also pleased with the percentage of field-goal attempts Marquette took that were from beyond the arc. The Golden Eagles don’t excel when they either choose or are forced to take a significant number of 3-pointers.
On Saturday, Marquette had just nine 3-point attempts of its 57 shots and made six of them.
“If we were taking a high percentage of our field-goal attempts from 3, we probably didn’t play very well,” Williams said. “Because that means our mentality was not attack, attack, attack. I’m not saying we can’t shoot, I’m not saying we can shoot. I’m saying we have to earn the right to make a shot. If your mentality is to shoot a bunch of jumpers on the perimeter, that doesn’t work.”
While a win over IUPUI isn’t going to be one anyone talks about come March, Marquette needed a confidence-boosting victory in the worst way. The Golden Eagles came into Saturday’s game with a 5-4 record for the first time since 2000-01 and have expectations to be better.
With winter break here and no classes to worry about, Anderson feels this is the time to turn things around.
“I think it’s the start of something big,” Anderson said. “My previous two years, we’ve strung together some wins and have gone on some streaks over winter break going into conference play. I definitely think this is a start.
“I don’t think we’re far off at all. In my personal opinion, I think we’ve beat ourselves in the games we have lost. We just couldn’t convert against San Diego State, we came out flat against Ohio State in the second half. I think it’s just our mentality. We just have to make some things click.”
Taylor sits again: Sophomore forward Steve Taylor Jr. missed his second straight game with pain in his right knee.
With 4:24 left in the game, Williams sent Taylor to check in but then decided otherwise and pulled him back to the bench.
“He’s not 100 percent,” Williams said. “Around his academic work this week, he’s been very consistent with the trainer. He’s trying. I wanted to reward him and then coach Chew said, ‘Do you think that’s right?’ “I then went, ‘Oh, maybe that’s right.’ I asked Steve what he thinks and he said, ‘I’ll do whatever you want.’ I guess I erred on the side of caution.”
It is likely too late for Marquette to consider a medical redshirt for Taylor even if the knee doesn’t improve. A player has to play in less than 30 percent of his team’s games to be eligible. Scrimmages against Division I teams are counted in that total, and Taylor participated in the two the Golden Eagles had prior to the year.That means he’s played in 10 of 33 possible games or scrimmages, more than the allotted 30 percent.
Marquette freshman guard Duane Wilson hasn’t played yet this season but has dressed for games recently. He didn’t suit up Saturday due to an illness.
Williams reacts: Saturday marked the first time Buzz Williams could react publicly to the sudden resignation of Marquette vice president and director of athletics Larry Williams.
Larry Williams’ resignation became official Friday evening, as he stepped away less than two years after taking the job.
“I think what he has done here speaks for itself,” Buzz Williams said. “I was shocked by it. I was down on the (practice) floor and came up to several texts and e-mails. I have not seen him or heard from him since then. I’m thankful for what he has done, I appreciate what he has done.
“I have great faith in Father Wild. I know Mr. Cords, obviously he was gone before I got here. I understand I am in front of a microphone way more than any coach in our department, but whatever the leadership tends toward in our department, it impacts more kids than just the men’s basketball kids. It impacts every kid. Whoever the next president is, whoever the next AD is, I don’t want to completely, exclusively be the spokesperson. I think we have to do what is right for the institution. Whoever that is, I think that’s the direction we need to go in.”