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Analysis and observations from Marquette’s win over Mississippi

Thanks to the folks at the Paradise Jam for cutting off the television feed around the 10-minute mark in the second half last night. Still, we’ve got you covered. Here’s some analysis and observations from Marquette’s 96-66 win over Ole Miss.

— Assistant coach Brad Autry referenced this in a tweet, but Marquette’s ability to maintain a substantial lead against a team like Ole Miss was just as impressive as the team getting out to that lead in the first place. The Golden Eagles were aggressive early and often but kept their foot on the gas after getting out to the lead. They are hungry and want to be great for 40 minutes. Buzz Williams has instilled the importance of consistency in each player’s mind, and it certainly showed tonight.

— Jae Crowder was phenomenal, but the story for me was Junior Cadougan’s play. He was burned twice on defense in the game’s first few minutes but was flawless the rest of the night. His final line (8 points, 6 assists, 3 turnovers) didn’t tell the story. Cadougan has become one of the premeir (yes, I chose that word carefully) passers in the country. He’s confident on the break, has excellent court vision and understands what Buzz is trying to accomplish in half court sets. When he picks up his dribble, he always knows what he is going to do with the ball, and more times than not that decision is passing to an open player. It’s not out of the question that Cadougan leads the Big East in assists this year.

— That being said, Crowder was phenomenal. Consistency was an issue with Crowder a year ago, as foul trouble limited him in some big games. Against an Ole Miss team with a solid interior, Crowder dominated. His defense is still a continuing work in progress as he allowed a few easy offensive rebounds, but he committed just two personal fouls and finished with seven rebounds and two blocks. Offensively, he scored at will (9-for-11) and looked in mid-season form on his two 3-point makes. He got to the line seven times, handed out two assists and committed just two fouls. Crowder is ready to go.

— Chris Otule was as active as we have seen him in quite some time. He had two steals and three blocks on the defensive end, jumping out to the top of the key to intercept a pass early in the first half and rejecting anything Ole Miss brought inside. He finished with just five rebounds and was a reason for Ole Miss’ 23 offensive rebounds, but he is becoming a truly reliable interior defender for Marquette. The time he has put in with Todd Smith is paying dividends, as he seems to be playing much bigger this year. He also made both of the shots he attempted. And you won’t find this in the box score, but he drew two charges in the first half. That is ALWAYS something worth mentioning, especially for a big.

— Still, it’s difficult to let the offensive rebounds number go. True, the Rebels missed 53 shots (including 20 3-pointers) that led to long offensive rebounds, but 23 offensive rebounds is far too many. A good chunk of those rebounds occurred on missed shots inside that came two or three at a time. While that could just be a case of bad positioning off a miss, it’s something the Golden Eagles need to fix. Ole Miss didn’t take advantage of it, but teams like Syracuse and Pittsburgh will put a game out of reach if they can grab double-digit offensive rebounds.

— How many teams can say that a 6-foot-8, 290 pound center is their go-to free throw shooter down the stretch of close games? Marquette might be one. Davante Gardner finished with 15 points and made ALL nine of his free throw attempts. Gardner is now 15-of-17 from the charity stripe on the early season. Everyone knew he had a great stroke and good touch on his shot, but that number is good for anyone. He’s going to be getting to the line plenty with his style of play inside, and if he can hit around 80 percent of his free throws, it would be one more asset to Marquette’s already-lethal offense.

— Biggest mystery through four games? Jamil Wilson. He’s playing above average defense but he never seems to be in rhythm on the court. This certainly could be due to the fact that he’s playing his first competitive ball in over a year and a half, but signs of progression would be nice to see. He finished the Ole Miss game with two points and three rebounds in 10 minutes, and it seems as though Buzz is trying to slowly work him into the rotation. Then again, if Vander Blue continues his stellar play and lets Marquette go with  three-guard sets at least 25 minutes a night, Wilson’s accelerated progression would be less important.

— 17 turnovers is too many. It’s tough to stay focused and run sets against a team you’re blowing out, but Marquette forced the issue too many times. However, they have done a great job taking care of the ball thus far, so last night was more an abberation than anything worrisome.

— Does Todd Mayo just look like a basketball player, or what? He finished with six points and four rebounds but, more importantly, he looks confident on the court. He looks like he belongs. His defense needs some fine-tuning, but if he can provide offensive numbers like he has been putting up, he’s going to be on the court. He seems to have a spot in the rotation.

— It was nice to see that Marquette’s offense can function even when Darius Johnson-Odom isn’t the focal point. He finished with 20 points but had just two of Marquette’s first 40 points. He finished with four assists, including a beautiful dish to Jae Crowder on a fast break, but Marquette proved tonight that trying too hard to take DJO out of the offense will be costly. Crowder’s red-hot start helped, but the distribution of points early in the game was a great sign.

— Had to save my guy for last. Vander Blue. To get the one mini-negative thought out of the way, he still looks timid taking jump shots in half-court sets. Now for the good stuff. He finished with 11 points, two rebounds, two assists and a team-high four steals. He also deflected another three or four passes to slow Ole Miss’ offense. His steal-and-breakaway dunk was a thing of beauty. It’s early to say against inferior competition, but Blue was again a leader on the court and is showing a confidence that wasn’t there last year, even during his impressive non-conference run.

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