Marquette receives high praise after big win

MILWAUKEE — Marquette wasn’t about to lose at home to Cincinnati two years in a row. At

least that’s the way Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin viewed it.

“You think they’re going to let us win two in a row at Marquette?”

Cronin said after Saturday’s game, referencing a conversion he had with his

players. “Hah. It’s going to be World War III to get a win. We weren’t

ready. We weren’t ready for that intensity level. They outplayed us.”

Perhaps Cronin overstated the level of intensity required by his players in

order to get a victory, but after Cincinnati broke out to an early 12-point

lead, Marquette came back and dominated the rest of the way for a 95-78 win.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams certainly had not forgotten about that loss a

year ago.

“I don’t know if it was motivation, but it was an embarrassment,”

Williams said of his team’s 67-60 loss on Senior Night last season. “They

just whipped us. I don’t know if our guys are smart enough to remember that

game, but it was an embarrassment.”

Once Marquette was down 16-4 early on Saturday, Williams soon went to a full-court

press and changed the dynamic of the entire game. Midway through the first

half, Marquette forced four turnovers in less than two minutes by trapping as

soon as the ball was inbounded.

“There were some times where our guys acted like they were scared,”

Cronin said. “No doubt about it. We weren’t ready to play. I can assure

you.”

Adding to Cronin’s disappointment is that this happened against Williams, whom

he considers a good friend. While both coaches traded tremendous compliments

about each other after the game, Cronin didn’t hold anything back when

assessing his team’s effort.

“I don’t know if they just thought Marquette was going to lay down for

them,” Cronin said. “I don’t know why they would’ve thought that. I

don’t know what they’ve been watching all season. I don’t know what they do at

night. I don’t know what they’ve been doing for the last 48 hours as we’ve been

preparing for them. You don’t come in here and win that easy. It just doesn’t

happen.

“Our weakness is that we have talent, but we want things to be easier. And

that’s just not reality. Not when you play great teams. You don’t beat a great

team on the road because you played a good four minutes. Come on.”

Marquette was playing in transition so often that the team barely had to run

any set offensive plays.

“I think they might’ve set a record,” Cronin said. “They

might’ve scored 95 points without running one play.”

Williams later clarified.

“Three (set plays), that I remember,” Williams said.

This was the fourth consecutive game that the Golden Eagles have had to play

without both of their injured big men, 6-foot-10 Chris Otule (knee, out for the

season) and 6-8 Davante Gardner (knee, day to day). Williams is forced to play

nearly an entire lineup of guards with not a single player over 6-6.

Though the Golden Eagles were dominated in

offensive rebounds 21-8, they made up for it by making seven 3-pointers,

connecting on 20-for-24 free-throw attempts and forcing Cincinnati into 14

turnovers.

Much of that offensive success for Marquette started when it began

pressuring and trapping on defense all the way down the court.

“As much as it shook them, it kind of revitalized us,” Williams said.

“We’re not really trying to create turnovers in the backcourt as much as

we are trying to keep their team as high and wide on the floor as possible

because we’re so deficient internally.”

The Golden Eagles’ two leading scorers, seniors Jae Crowder and Darius

Johnson-Odom, finished with 23 points apiece. Jamil Wilson added 15 and Vander

Blue had 14.

Marquette improved to 21-5 this season, 10-3 in Big East play and has only lost

one game at home.

“I’ll bet you a hot dog (Marquette) doesn’t lose another game (at

home),” Cronin said.

After the loss of Jimmy Butler last season, who was selected in the first round

of the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls, the Golden Eagles are trying to improve

upon their Sweet 16 run of a year ago.

“Marquette could be the team in the Big East to go on a run in the NCAA

Tournament and make it to the Final Four,” Cronin said.

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