Freshman Mayo providing instant offense for Golden Eagles

One of the questions facing Marquette coach Buzz Williams entering the 2011 season was how a bench made up of three freshmen and three sophomores would provide scoring on the second and third units.

That answer has come in the form of freshman guard Todd Mayo.

Mayo finished Monday night’s 88-56 win over Jacksonville with a career-high 14 points in 15 minutes, further planting himself in as Marquette’s go-to scoring punch off the bench.

Labeled by Williams as a scorer after averaging 22 points for Notre Dame Prep last year, Mayo has been every bit as good as advertised, leading all Marquette reserves in minutes played and points through six games.

Mayo said he learned his role on the team and understood what would would be asked of him, specifically spelling starting guards Darius Johnson-Odom and Vander Blue.

Freshman Todd Mayo leads all Marquette reserves in minutes played and points. / Tribune File Photo

“I know DJ’s a great scorer and Van’s a great scorer, and when those guys are going through struggles and coach calls my name I try to come in and be a threat. Because some of these teams don’t know about me.”

It won’t be long before opposing teams know who No. 4 is. The Huntington, W.V., native turned the best performance of his young collegiate career Monday, providing instant scoring for a Marquette offense that seemed out of sorts at time.

After entering the game for the first time at the 16:04 mark, Mayo needed just 19 seconds to get on the court,finishing at the basket off a pass from senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom for an easy lay-in. Later in the series he drove to the basket and drew a foul, knocking down his first of five free throw makes in six attempts.

He checked in again at the 6:22 mark in the opening half and scored just 58 seconds later on Marquette’s second possession of the series, knocking down two free throws.

Seven minutes into the second half, his third re-entry into the game, he again scored on Marquette’s second possession after just 55 seconds on the court. This time his athleticism was on display, as he took the ball down the left sideline, lost control in the paint before re-gaining possession underneath the right side of the basket, spinning back around and floating the ball over a Jacksonville defender for two points.

He also took two more trips to the free throw line in that series, knocking down both.

In the closing minutes of the blowout, Mayo entered the game and scored on the Golden Eagles’ first possession. With the shot clock winding down, the freshman drove into the paint and threw up a fadeaway jumper that found nothing but the bottom of the net. He finished off his impressive performance with a 3-pointer from the right wing on Marquette’s next possession.

In four substitutions, Mayo put points on the board in an average of 56 seconds and 1.5 possessions after coming onto the court. The Golden Eagles outscored the Dolphins 25-10 while Mayo was on the court.

And he hasn’t been shooting freely, either.

Instead, Mayo has been confident and aggressive in looking for open opportunities. He is shooting 50 percent from the field, 44 percent from beyond the arc (7-of-15) and has made 12-of-15 free throws, good for an 80 percent mark. His 7.8 points per game rank fourth on the team, despite playing just 16.3 minutes.

The offensive numbers speak volumes to Mayo’s quick acclimation, but Williams said his freshman’s play on the defensive end, and the numbers that don’t necessarily show up in the box score, have stood out to him.

“He’s a lot better defender than you probably realize,” Williams said. “It’s just that he’s so good offensively that you don’t necessarily pay attention to what he’s doing for us defensively.”

Tribune File Photo

“He’s played six college games and, at times, has guarded the opponent’s best player and done an outstanding job playing him before the catch, holding him scoreless, sometimes holding him without a touch,” Williams added.

Mayo has recorded a steal in four of Marquette’s contests and, while he has committed four fouls in limited minutes on two occasions, that has been more an indication of his activeness on the defensive end rather than careless mistakes or laziness.

An elbow injury suffered at Marquette Madness forced Mayo to miss a handful of practices, but the freshman has transitioned seamlessly, showing no hesitance when he has the ball and moving fluidly within Williams’ offense.

As is the case with all freshmen, Mayo said he needed to earn his teammate’s trust in pre-season practices, but always had the confidence in himself that he could come off the bench to provide an offensive spark.

“It was stressful at first but I had to get used to it,” Mayo said. “I had to figure out my role and just stick to what I do best. Keep scoring the ball and learn each and every day in practice.”

Senior forward Jae Crowder, Marquette’s second leading scorer, said Mayo’s progression has added another dimension to the team’s potent offense.

“He’s big for our offense,” Crowder said. “And that’s the type of guy Buzz recruits: Guys who can help on the offensive end. And he’s come a long way defensively and things like that. He’s caught on well.”

While Mayo is unsure of whether his role has been defined just yet, he said he will continue to better himself as the Golden Eagles enter the heart of their schedule in the Big East.

“I feel I can do better, and I’m going to continue to do better,” Mayo said. “Stay in the gym and work a little bit harder and we’ll figure it out whenever it’s time.”

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