By Marco Radenkovich
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.
That was the story Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center as Marquette (9-3) hung on for a 75-66 win over North Carolina Central (6-7).
Marquette committed 20 turnovers, leading to 25 NC Central points. The turnovers ranged from steals to dropped passes to out of bounds violations. The Golden Eagles also had more turnovers than assists – 14.
“20 turnovers is never good,” junior Vander Blue said. “I can say we tried to make the home run play instead of doing the things we do every day.”
Part of the sloppy play could have been due to the extended Christmas break.
“It took us away from 5-on-5,” Blue said. “We did a lot of running to get back into shape. We took a week off from playing 5-on-5. It was nice to get some competition and fight for the win which will help prepare us for UConn on Tuesday.”
Despite shooting 60 percent from the field, Marquette needed a late 15-6 run to close out the game.
Junior Cadougan and Blue led the team with 16 points each. 12 of Blue’s 16 were in the first half. Todd Mayo led the Golden Eagles six rebounds and chipped in 12 points in his second game back.
Marquette allowed NC Central to hang around, as the Eagles erased a 12-point first half deficit, and the game was tied at 60-60 with 4:27 to play.
Mayo put-back a miss by Cadougan to give Marquette the lead , and it never looked back.
NC Central’s leaders Stanton Kidd and Jeremy Ingram kept the Eagles in the game. Ingram led all scorers with 20, including four three-pointers. Kidd finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, also a game high.
Despite the sloppy victory for Marquette, two players feel that the team is ready for conference play Tuesday vs. UConn.
“Sometimes we play down to our competition, but once big east starts, we’ll adjust,” forward Juan Anderson said.
Mayo returns to save MU
With the game tied 60-60 with 5:21 to play, Todd Mayo fought for a defensive rebound and finished underneath the rim for a bucket to give the Golden Eagles a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I thought Todd’s offensive rebound put back was what changed the game,” head coach Buzz Williams said. From that point forward, they scored twice.”
It’s pretty safe to say that Mayo was the difference maker for the Golden Eagles as they escaped NC Central.
Mayo’s stat line of 12 points, six rebounds, two steals and a block showed why the team missed him during the first part of the season. Mayo also logged the most minutes of any game this season – 24 – and he’s getting more comfortable with the team. He made 4-of-his-5 shots from the field, as well as all three free throws.
“Todd has had only six practices and two games. He’s really, really good. He’s a guy that we need,” Williams said.
Today, that was an understatement. His comfort level was the highest it’s been since re-joining the Golden Eagles and sophomore forward Juan Anderson said, “you can’t tell he’s only been around for a few games. It feels like he’s been with us all season.”
That confidence is necessary as the team goes forward into Big East conference play.
Jamil Wilson struggled mightily against NC Central. In only 19 minutes, Wilson had six turnovers, three rebounds, three fouls and no points. Most significant, he didn’t attempt a field goal.
“I have a pretty good pluse for Jamil,” Williams said. “He wants everything to be in harmony. When things are not in harmony, he struggles. You can’t play half the game and have 6 turnovers and the rest zeros. When he’s a liability offensively, he puts a great strain on Juan.”
Buzz stressed that the team needs more consistency at that position between Wilson, Anderson and freshman Steve Taylor.
Williams won’t be on the sidelines when Marquette opens Big East play, as the head coach was suspended in accordance with the Scott Monarch recruiting violations. Williams’ suspension begins Dec. 31 and will last 48 hours.
“I have been the coach for 1,717 days. Since I was hired, I’ve said it’s about our players, it’s about our kids. My concentration is on our kids, but for 48 hours, I can’t do anything. Nothing,” Williams said.
Williams was non-committal of who would be the head coach on Tuesday.
Williams also was pleased that Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie received a five-year extension.
“I think Ollie is a stud. I love his path, respect his path, think he’s a star. I think it’s hard to follow a Hall of Famer,” Williams said. “I think they’re extremely fast. Like, really, really, really fast.