Golden Eagles need to begin playing 40 good minutes

Following Marquette’s 64-50 win over Milwaukee on Dec. 22, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said his team would find out a lot about themselves over the next two weeks.

If two things are apparent from the Golden Eagles 1-3 stretch over that time period, it is that 1) they have the ability to play with any team in the nation for stretches of games and that 2) inconsistencies of not being able to string 40 good minutes of basketball together could be the team’s downfall this year.

For 22 minutes Sunday afternoon, Marquette looked every bit as crisp as No. 1 Syracuse. Including the final two minutes of the first half and beyond, the Golden Eagles outscored the Orange 54 to 36 and looked like the more determined team in control of the game.

Wednesday, Marquette had Washington, D.C. stunned through 27 minutes, leading the one-loss Georgetown Hoyas by 17 points, running the No. 9 team in the country out of its own building.

Both contests, however, ended in losses.

It’s no secret that, without Otule, Marquette is not only shorter in size but shorter on the bench. Buzz Williams is going eight deep in his rotation and having to rotate three players, all undersized, at the power forward and center position. It’s no easy task, but neither is winning in the Big East.

And it’s not all negative, because there certainly is something to be said for having a 17-point lead on Georgetown and trailing the top-ranked team in the nation on its own floor by just two with 4:28 to play.

But, unfortunately, the Big East standings didn’t leave room for moral victories.

Marquette had high expectations entering this season and, when the giants of the Big East began to fall, there was thought that Marquette could contend for its first ever Big East championship.

The loss of Otule all but ended those hopes, but if the first 27 minutes on Wednesday and the last 22 this afternoon are any indication, Marquette has the firepower and determination to match up, talent for talent, with any team in the country.

Now what Williams’ group must do, beginning on Wednesday with St. John’s, is bring the attitude and focus seen in the “good” stretches this past week and do it for 40 minutes.

It isn’t easy, or else Marquette would have done it on both occasions, but it’s necessary with an undersized and undermanned group.

Size won’t be able to bail them out when the outside shots aren’t falling. Depth won’t either when a starter is having an off night. An easy “W” on the schedule won’t allow Marquette to rest for a night. Not in the Big East.

With news coming out that center Chris Otule will have surgery on his injured right knee this Tuesday and will miss the rest of the season, Marquette now knows that it has. No reinforcements are coming.

Just 10 players and Buzz having to battle for 40 minutes in one of the toughest conferences in the country.

They’ve got it in them because they showed us on two occasions this past week. Now it’s time to show the country that ability from start to finish.

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