Winthrop-Marquette Preview

BY foxsports • November 17, 2011

While Marquette's ultimate goal is to win the NCAA tournament, a Big East conference tournament title is also coveted.

At this point, however, Buzz Williams would simply like to win an in-season tournament, something his team has never accomplished since he took over the program.

Williams' 21st-ranked Golden Eagles look to take the first step toward reaching that goal Friday night when they face Winthrop in the Paradise Jam tournament.

Marquette (2-0) arrives in the Virgin Islands after easily defeating Norfolk State 99-68 in an opening-round game Monday at the Bradley Center. Jae Crowder led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Darius Johnson-Odom added 24 points for the Golden Eagles, who opened the season with last Friday's 91-37 win over Mount St. Mary's.

"We're not, as a team, worried about offensive things,'' Crowder said. "We can score in a lot of difference ways. We know that.''

After the win over Norfolk State, Williams said his team "ran three plays out of 80-something possessions."

He believes that helps his team react better and will be beneficial down the road for an NCAA tournament run.

First, though, the fourth-year Marquette coach would like to see his team make a run in the Virgin Islands.

"We've never won a championship since we've been here," he said. "Haven't won one in the postseason in New York or the NCAA. Have not won a championship in any exempt event."

In Williams' first season, the Golden Eagles lost in the final game of the 2008 Chicago Invitational. In the 2009 Old Spice Classic, they lost to Florida State in the championship game. Last season, Marquette lost to top-ranked Duke in the semifinals of the CBE Classic.

To win that elusive championship, Williams will likely continue to lean heavily on Johnson-Odom and Crowder.

Through two games, Johnson-Odom has 40 points on 13 of 20 shooting (65.0 percent), while Crowder has 39 points - hitting 15 of 24 from the floor (62.5 percent).

"We're going to play really good teams, really good players that have really good coaches while in the Virgin Islands, but as much as it should be about our opponent, more of it needs to be about us," Williams said. "Can we do what we've done in practice for five weeks, two scrimmages and our first two regular-season games? Can that transfer to we win three games in four days?"

This will be Marquette's second game against Winthrop after losing the first meeting 71-64 in 2005.

Marquette was unranked in that meeting, but Winthrop (0-2) has been outscored by an average of 32.8 points in losing four straight games to Top 25 opponents since a 76-70 win over No. 19 Miami in 2007.

Winthrop lost its Paradise Jam opening-round game to Virginia 69-48, although the game was much more competitive than the final score indicates. The score was tied at 44 with 9:37 remaining in the second half before the Cavaliers closed the game on a 25-4 run.

Senior guard Reggie Middleton had 16 points and Andre Jones added 12, but no other starter scored more than four.

"You know, I'm disappointed but very proud of my team,'' Winthrop coach Randy Peele said. "The bottom line is that with 10 minutes to go in the game I think the score was tied and we scored four points in the last 10 minutes of the game.''

The winner of this game will face either Mississippi or Drake on Sunday.

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