Statline: 18 pts, 5 ast, 7-13 FG, 1 TO, 35 mins.
Quality of opponent: 7/10. The Huskies entered Milwaukee sporting an impressive 10-2 record, including wins over No. 14 Michigan State and Washington. Their only losses came at neutral sites against New Mexico and North Carolina State, both eventual NCAA Tournament teams. Connecticut was ineligible for postseason play but showed all season they were playing for pride, and with a backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright nothing was going to come easy for Marquette’s floor general.
Magnitude of game: 7/10. It’s hard to hype up a game in January against a ranked opponent too much, but considering this was the Big East opener at home, it was an important one to win. With games against Georgetown and at Pittsburgh looming on the schedule, getting off on the right foot was key for Marquette’s Big East season. As we eventually saw, this win helped the Golden Eagles clinch a share of the conference title. The magnitude of the game was high, but it meant so much more down the stretch.
Rundown: Cadougan missed his first two field-goal attempts of the game and had just two point and one assist midway through the first half. But a 5-0 run by himself pushed Marquette’s lead out to five, and in the second half Cadougan took over. He scored the first basket of the second half and added three assists before one of most memorable shots of the season. In the overtime period he was solid once again, helping Marquette win its Big East opener.
Key play: The Shot. Marquette’s 2012-13 season can be defined by multiple plays and moments, but Cadougan’s 30-foot prayer as time was running out set the tone for the Big East season, a conference Marquette eventually won with Georgetown and Louisville. It was an instinctive play by a senior whose decision-making hasn’t always been great, but it sure was on that 3-pointer.
Wow factor: Check the box score from this game and you will find that Cadougan turned over the ball just one time in 35 minutes. That in itself is impressive for any point guard, but consider this: Cadougan entered the Big East opener with 20 turnovers in his last four games. Not only that, but Connecticut guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright wound up finishing tied for 4th and 11th, respectively, in steals per game in the Big East. For Cadougan to take care of the ball like he did was really an incredible feat, as he added five assists, too.
Historical precedent: Dominic James, at NC State, Dec. 22, 2008. Check out the last six minutes of that game (nice job, internet) but go to the 6:30 mark to see James’ buzzer beater. But more so than just the similar threes, their respective statlines are almost identical: James finished with 18 points, four rebounds, six assists and just two turnovers in 32 minutes.
Closing time: Cadougan’s buzzer beater at the end of regulation didn’t close the door, but his nifty floater gave Marquette a brief lead in overtime, and his assist to Vander Blue for a 3-pointer gave the Golden Eagles a 74-72 lead they would not lose. Cadougan hit 1-of-2 free throws later in overtime as Marquette went on to win 81-76 in Brad Autry’s Marquette coaching debut.