In a bit of a shakeup from previous editions of the Haunted Hoops scrimmage, Marquette played two 12-minute “games” with the score re-setting at the half instead of two 15-minute halves with a running score like in previous years.
The team was broken down into blue and white squads of similar talent distribution. The Blue team consisted of Juan Anderson, Derrick Wilson, Vander Blue, Trent Lockett, Chris Otule, Dylan Flood and Steve Taylor pitted against the White team featuring Jamil Wilson, Todd Mayo, Junior Cadougan, Jake Thomas, Davante Gardner, Jamal Ferguson and Garret Swanson. (Starters in bold)
It’s tough to do an actual recap with the amount of fouls and turnovers that characterize a scrimmage of this type, but the Blue team pulled off the victory in both games winning the first 32-27 in overtime and the second 24-15. The Blue team played stifling defense and was able to force White’s ball handlers (particularly Cadougan and J. Wilson) to cough it up on multiple occasions. Altough the White team had more offensive fire-power and seemed to execute set plays better, it didn’t shoot very well from the floor and committed a plethora of fouls at the end of the first game blowing a 22-13 lead.
(One little sidebar, with the score knotted at 23-23 and 13 seconds to go, it looked like we’d get a good look at what end-of-game situations might look like. However, Cadougan proceeded to commit a 5-second violation as he was unable to find an open player to inbound the ball to. On the opposite end, Lockett was given the reigns but traveled with 3 seconds left as he was attacking the hole. The ensuing posession saw Gardner throw a full-court pass to Wilson a la Duke with Christian Laettner, but the pass was too high and sailed out of bounds. Three scenarios, three turnovers, and very little to be gleaned.)
The second game was a bit more fluid, as Blue led the Blue team from the outset, never once falling behind. Still, the most important part of the scrimmage isn’t to judge winners and loser, but rather analyze player development. Here are some notes on each player going from most to least impressive on the night. (Once again, it is important to stress the practice aspect of the scrimmage. Last season Crowder put in a clunker of a performance, yet he seemed to do ok when the season came around.)
Blue: (22 pts, 3 rebs, 4 asts) If Marquette gets this version of Vander throughout the season, it will contend for a Big East title. He was that impressive, scoring 15 points in the first and seven in the second for 22 in all. Blue attacked from the get-go hitting two of his first three shots at the rim. He still doesn’t have a DJO-like feel around the basket, but he had much more composure and didn’t flail about or rocket a lay-in off the glass. The biggest key was that his shot was falling from the outside, going 3-3 from beyond the arc. His technique is still funky and it takes him too long to release, but when he has the confidence he showed tonight, good luck trying to stop him. His defense was airtight as usual, forcing a few turnovers and preventing penetration all night. Most impressively, he asserted control and made it his team. Down 22-13, Blue hit back-to-back treys and added a lay-in to spur a 10-1 run and tie the game.
Gardner: (10 pts, 2 rebs, 2 asts) The big guy is just so smooth. Reportedly weighing around 290 pounds, he looks trimmer than in past years but just as powerful. He had a few good finishes at the basket, but what was most impressive was his vision to pass out of double teams. Twice tonight he found a wide-open Cadougan for uncontested lay-ups, a very good sign of things to come. He faded in the second game though, and committed too many fouls that would sideline him in a regular game, but overall it appears that he is back to pre-injury form.
Anderson: (9 pts, 3 rebs, 4 stls) Don’t get me wrong, he is not the third best player on the team, he simply was the third most impressive performer on the night. This was a completely different guy from the scrawny freshman we saw last year. He impressed me last year with his rebounding and length, but you could tell he still wasn’t comfortable in the offense. Contrast that with tonight where Anderson was not only unafraid to shoot, he actively looked to create shots for himself and looked comfortable in the offense. His shot wasn’t particularly accurate (3-8 from the field), but it wasn’t him forcing up bad shots. Even better than his aggressiveness was his tenacity on defense. He was matched up against Jamil for most of the night and forced him into a few turnovers and a few more bad shots. This version of Juan will challenge for more than spot minutes.
Mayo: (5 pts, 4 rebs, 3 asts) I don’t know what it is about Buzz summer suspension club, but it truly is transformative. Mayo didn’t have a spectacular night statistically, but he is a changed player. He looks as if he’s in complete command and is not simply looking to score every time he touches it, but rather make the best play. He had a few good looks from long distance and connected on one, but his composure and court presence make him an asset even when isn’t scoring, a big upgrade from last year. He was matched up on Lockett a good chunk of time defensively, and locked down the transfer completely in the first game.
D. Wilson: (7 pts, 4 asts, 1 reb) He still can’t dribble past a defender. He can’t create his own shot. His defense is too handsy. Yet, despite his limitations, Wilson provides a known quantity that greatly benefits the team. Tonight his offensive game looked better than it ever has, connecting on a 3-pointer and going 4-6 from the line. Remember this is the same guy who could barely draw iron on free throws at times. Marquette does not need him to be a scorer, but having him be able to hit the open shots can go a long way.
Otule: (8 pts, 4 rebs, 20 mins) Although the clunky knee-brace made him look like an NFL lineman, it appears his mobility is close to being back at 100 percent. He looked fluid running the court and played good defense against the shifty Gardner. His defensive rebounding was non-existent, but he was very active on the offensive glass, creating three second chance opportunities. I still believe he won’t play more that 15 minutes a game, but I can almost guarantee that he will be starting every game he is healthy enough to play in: three jump balls, three Otule wins. No way Buzz passes up that extra possession on a nightly basis.
Lockett: (6 pts, 5 rebs, 3 asts) Offensive performance tends to skew analysis some, and that might be the case here with Lockett, who is a lock-down defender but looked pedestrian on offense. It wasn’t just a case of him missing shots either. He was very hesitant to attack the rim, and the times he did go to the hole didn’t produce many results. He is a heady player who is still finding his sea legs in Buzz’ offense, though, and as long as his defense continues to excel, he will get plenty of time on the court to bring his game up to speed.
Cadougan: (10 pts, 3 asts, 4 rebs) I was a bit disappointed with Cadougan’s play tonight, but looking over his stat line, he was much more productive than I remember. He was 5-8 from the field and made great cuts when Gardner faced a double team. Still, he missed a few open teammates and took a 5-second violation that would be toxic in a real end-of-game situation. We didn’t see any shots from 3-point land, which I believe will be crucial for him to take and hit without a shot creator like DJO around.
Thomas: (3 pts, 2 rebs, 2 asts) SHOOOOT! If I’m Buzz I have to be telling Jake to stop hesitating before launching. He hit his first shot from long-range (a deep 2) but missed both three point attempts after ward, which led him to think before launching. With a shooter of his caliber, there should be no thinking. The White team ran a great double-screen to free him on one possession but instead of firing away, he took an extra second to look at the defender which erased the separation he had gotten and forced him into a tough shot. On the bright side, his defense was good to very good, and I believe he will get a decent shot at regular minutes (5-10) every game.
J. Wilson: (14 pts, 2 rebs, 1 ast) After leading his team in scoring you’d think Wilson would be higher up on the list for tonight, but his sloppy ball handling and meager rebounding totals put a damper on a decent offensive performance for me. Wilson went 5-10 from the field (although only 2-6 from 3-point land) and his shot looked as good as ever. One thing the coaching staff should remind players before every game is to not crash on Wilson’s jumpers. His shot, should it miss, always leads to a long rebound. By not crashing the boards, they increase their odds of picking up the rebound or simply preventing opponents from running a fast break out of his misses. As for Wilson, he needs to be much more controlled with his dribbling as he committed six turnovers on the night. Not all of them were dribbling errors, but enough were where it has to be a point of emphasis.
Taylor: (2 pts, 5 rebs, 20 mins) He has the body and the talent, but Taylor needs to let the game come to him a bit more. He looks a lot like Anderson of yesteryear, full of hops and hustle, but short on productivity. It will come with experience, and I have no doubt he will be a contributor this season, even if its just on the defensive end, as he played great defense on both Gardner and Wilson. His one basket came on a fantastic move where he posted up Gardner on the right block, then used a beautiful spin and a kiss off the glass for two points. It was one of those moves that show the type of talent he has when he lets the game come to him.
Ferguson: He played 11 minutes on the night, but I can honestly say I don’t remember one possession of his. On the one hand this is good, as he didn’t turn the ball over or make any errors, but he was very quiet during his time on the floor.
Swanson: He joined the club trillion with his stat line, featuring very little in his on court time.
Flood: Came on at the end of the second game to hit two free throws.