Marquette bigs deliver in win over Villanova

Buzz Williams knows all too well that, on most nights, his team is going to be the shorter of the two teams playing. Since the loss of Chris Otule, Williams said his team has had to change its philosophy on both ends to compensate for the loss of  his biggest player.

“I take a lot of vitamins because I’m not in great health all the time, but I haven’t seen any vitamins for length,” Williams said after Thursday’s loss to Vanderbilt. “Our team is what our team is.”

Sunday afternoon against Villanova, Marquette’s front court was superb against the physical and lengthy Wildcat bigs.

Sophomore Davante Gardner recorded the first double-double of his career, Jamil Wilson played 31 quality minutes and had three steals and Jae Crowder battled back from first half foul trouble to score seven quick points to open the second half and help Marquette pull away.

All three have seen their roles increase since Otule’s injury and are playing out of position, specifically on the defensive end.

“Our team is not as settled when we don’t have the ability to play those three guys however we deem fit,” Williams said. “And so when you’re a man down and foul trouble does become a part of the scenario, you do have to adjust. And I thought Davante and Jamil, over the last 11 minutes of the first half, I thought they adjusted well and really handled it fine.”

Including three meaningless offensive rebounds in the closing seconds of the contest, Villanova out-rebounded Marquette by just two (40-38) and the Wildcats’ inside trio of Yaro, JayVaughn Pinkston and Markus Kennedy combined for 35 points and 22 rebounds. Marquette’s trio finished with 33 and 18 rebounds.

“Too an extent, all three of those guys are different both offensively and defensively,” Williams said. “I think the versatility of our crew, albeit small, I really like.”

Gardner gave Villanova center Mouphtaou Yarou trouble on the glass all afternoon, scoring on four of his six offensive rebound chances and limiting Yarou to six rebounds, his fourth lowest total this season.

“There was a couple plays where Mouphtaou Yarou had inside position and [Gardner] just put his butt on him and moved him underneath the basket for an offensive rebound,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “He can hurt you in a lot of ways. He does a great job on the offensive glass and, for his size, gets out on the pick and roll pretty well, too.”

The Golden Eagles’ hectic travel schedule has made it so that Wilson and Gardner have been forced to adjust to their new roles on the fly, but senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom said he has been impressed with the results.

“I think their feel for the game is awesome,” Johnson-Odom said. “Those guys work tremendously hard and they give everything they have. Davante has kind of come into his own.”

Otule’s injury changed the complexion of the Marquette roster, but Johnson-Odom added that essentially swapping Wilson for Otule has made the Golden Eagles faster and quicker.

“Guys have to figure out how to play ball screens,” Johnson-Odom said. “Are you going to guard the ball or guard the roller or the pop guy? Jae and Jamil, those guys can play in or out. We’re really matching up. We’re having teams match up against us, not us match up against teams.”


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