Chris Otule won the game for Marquette Saturday afternoon.
Look at the box score and you’ll see he only scored 12 points and had four rebounds — all on the offensive end — in the game. He also missed his three free throw attempts in Marquette’s 96-94 win over DePaul.
Don’t tell Buzz Williams that Otule wasn’t the best player on the floor. Or Jamil Wilson.
“I thought he (Chris) was the difference. I thought he was absolutely huge,” Williams said.
“Chris was huge on both ends of the floor,” Williams said. “He is so massive. There is no one really his size that can cover him. The amount of strength he has and the space he takes up on the floor. I’m really proud of him.”
The respect Williams has for Otule is nothing new. The respect Otule’s teammates have for him is also nothing new.
Otule was a nonfactor in the first half, with a missed field goal and a turnover to go along with a block in seven minutes.
Over the next 25 minutes (Otule played in 15 of them), he did all of his damage and bailed out Marquette in a game it had to have. He didn’t miss a shot in the second half and overtime.
Otule will never be the most talented player on the floor. But you’ll never find a kid who works harder to maximize the abilities he has.
“I think he’s transformed our program, not from a winning and losing perspective, not from a skill set standpoint, not from what he was ranked coming out of high school,” Williams said. “But because of who he is every day.”
Otule came to Marquette six years ago when the Three Amigos were still around. He was Williams’ first recruit at Marquette. And he’s as modest today as he was back then.
“I think I play the same way every game,” he said. “Whenever I play I try to make myself a presence in the lane and it just connected today more so than other days.”
He sure was a presence today. He pestered Tommy Hamilton IV into just three points before fouling out. Sandi Marcius only scored two points.
While the guards were struggling to contain Billy Garrett and Brandon Young, Otule more than held his own in the post.
When Wilson fouled out with 2:03 and the scored tied, Marquette could have folded and extinguished any remaining hopes of securing an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. After all, the Golden Eagles led by 15 with 15:01 to play.
But this was a game Marquette had to have.
“It was a big win,” Otule said. “Buzz made a note saying they had won eight games in the past four years and tonight they didn’t play like they won only eight games. They played like they were one of the best teams in the league. (It was a) very impressive win for us.”
I posed this question on Twitter a little earlier: Has any coach ever loved a player more than Buzz loves Chris?
Yes, Wilson, Davante Gardner and Todd Mayo did much of the heavy lifting on the offensive end. And Buzz still has to take Otule out when the Golden Eagles need a basket. But there is nobody more important to this team’s success than him.
“I can’t articulate the respect that I have for him and how much I am reveling in every single minute I have a chance to coach him as his career unfolds,” Williams said.