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Five Point Play V16: The Five Game Winning Streak

At the beginning of Big East play many were concerned with where the 2011-2012 Golden Eagles could go this season. With two heartbreaking losses to top-10 opponents (Georgetown and Syracuse) and the slow start problem, this team was treading water.
But that all seems to be in the past now as Marquette has reeled off five straight wins and is tied for second place in the Big East.
What’s been going well during this stretch? Well that, in part, is what we’re looking at here in addition to the rematch with Villanova Saturday.
1. What’s been the key to Marquette’s five-game winning streak?
Mike Nelson Marquette Tribune: The simple answer is that the talent level of the opposition has been inferior. But the Golden Eagles have, as Buzz would say, “played more minutes of us” than they had during the five of six losing streak. And that starts with ball movement and forcing turnovers that create fastbreak opportunities. During the streak they have assisted on 77.9 percent of their baskets, up from the 65.8 percent on the season. When individuals on this team try to create for themselves first that’s when things get stagnant.
Matt Trebby Marquette Tribune/WMUR Sports: The key is beating teams that they should beat, as simple as that sounds. It’s a down year for the Big East, so they’re going to be favored in most of the games they play in, so it’s a matter of execution. They’re showing their maturity in their ability to win these games against inferior opposition.
Todd Warner, Inside the AlThe biggest difference is the resiliency this team has showed when they had slow starts and needing to dig themselves out of a hole.  You can see when they want to play on both ends of the floor that they are a tough matchup for any team in the Big East.  I think it’s more of them needing to show up at tip no matter the opponent.
Alex Jesswein Marquette HoopsDefense. The Golden Eagles have held four of their last five opponents to under 1 point per possession (Providence scored 1.1).  In fact, the .71 allowed against South Florida was a BIG EAST best with Buzz at the helm. The addition of the 1-2-2 three-quarter-court pressure has really thrown teams off guard, allowing MU to capitalize on easy layups on the other end.  I think we’re definitely seeing the team finally adapting and coming together on that end of the court, after the loss of Chris Otule.
Mike Singer CBSSportsThe key to the Golden Eagles’ five-game winning streak has been stability from the front court. Gardner contributed valuable minutes in wins against Louisville, St. John’s and USF and in the other two games, Providence and Pittsburgh, Jamil Wilson averaged 11.5 ppg, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 58 combined minutes. When Chris went down, there was a 7-foot hole in the front court but it seems like the team has adapted to a more efficient offensive team and one with, in my opinion, a higher ceiling.

2. On a scale of 1-10 (10 amazing, 1 terrible) how would you grade DJO’s performance this year relative to the expectations set for him in the preseason?
Mike Nelson Marquette Tribune: Seven. DJO was expected to be a Big East Player of the Year candidate during the preseason discussion, and while he isn’t a clear cut favorite the senior guard is still playing extremely well. He keeps opposing defenses on their toes like no other Golden Eagle can and provides strong leadership. He hasn’t put the team on his back, a la Kemba Walker for Connecticut last year, but he’s still getting it done and is the Big East’s third leading scorer (18.1 points per game).
Matt Trebby Marquette Tribune/WMUR Sports: Five, just because of that lull in the middle of the season. Expectations were so high both from the outside, and from him as well. He said he wanted to average 20, 5, and 5. That’s not going to happen, but he’s still been pretty good. Just not as good as everyone might have expected him to be.
Todd Warner, Inside the Al: Eight. DJO can get his at any point during the game. We know that. He is the first guy the opposing coach says they need to key on.  The true test still awaits, can he propel this team to a Big East regular season championship?  As the team leader he can’t afford to have any let down games for the rest of the season.  He can’t afford to let them have a bad loss.
Alex Jesswein Marquette Hoops: Five. I had some discussions with others prior to the season, speculating whether or not DJO had a chance to be the BIG EAST Player of the Year. So with him being in the running as the baseline, I’d say he’s met expectations–but not really exceeded them.  Based on previous experience, we knew DJO would be a 15+ points per game guy. The question was could he channel his inner-Kemba Walker and carry this team, the latter of which remains to be seen.
Mike Singer CBSSports: Nine. DJO has been tremendous this year both in regards to his off-the-court leadership (according to Buzz), and his in-game play. In the pre-season everyone wondered whether he’d shoot 36 percent on 3-pointers like his junior year, or revert to his 47 percent three-point shooting of his sophomore year. DJO has settled comfortably around 40 percent. His 18.1 ppg are the third best in the conference and his free throw shooting is vastly improved (+6 percent).
3. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being unlikely, 10 being certain), how likely is it that Davante Gardner keeps up his current productivity from the previous five contests (11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game) throughout the remainder of the Big East season?
Mike Nelson Marquette Tribune: 7. Watching the way Gardner hammered away at USF’s interior defense, a group that includes long defenders, early in the first half demonstrated the type of offensive force Gardner can be this season. But I think teams will start to send help more often when Gardner operates in the post forcing him to give up the ball more frequently. He’s proven himself a reliable offensive threat, something Marquette needs given that its No. 3 scorer prior to this stretch was freshman Todd Mayo.
Matt Trebby Marquette Tribune/WMUR Sports:10. Davante The rebounds might go down a little bit, but the scoring will definitely stay the same. Buzz may have to limit his minutes as the year progresses to continue to get that type of productivity, but I don’t see Gardner slowing down at all.

Todd Warner, Inside the Al: 7. Davante Gardner has been a mismatch down low for opponents with his size and variety of post moves.  It will be interesting to see if teams start to double him down low causing him to make quicker decisions but then allowing his teammates to hurt the defense in other ways by finding holes in the defense.  The story has always been how he plays on the defensive end and Buzz noted the way he defends the ball screen needs to improve.
Alex Jesswein Marquette Hoops: 8.  While Gardner might become more well-known around BIG EAST circles the next few weeks, there’s little doubt in my mind that Gardner’s production will stay afloat.  With MU being limited in bodies on the interior, the minutes are there for the taking.  The only one that can hold Gardner back is himself.
Mike Singer CBSSports: 7. The problem with Davante is consistency. He’ll come out and drop 22 (St. John’s) and then have two FGs in 29 minutes vs. Pittsburgh the next game. To his credit, it really seems like his stamina is improving. Twenty five minutes used to be a feat worth drinking to, but he no longer appears exhausted come crunch time. Because he’s not as tired, he has dramatically cut back on unnecessary reach-in fouls when opponents would catch him out of position.
4. Jae Crowder said Junior Cadougan is a top-two point guard in the Big East. Where do you think he ranks among Big East point guards?
Mike Nelson Marquette Tribune: Cadougan is far from being deemed a top-two guard in the Big East but there is a serious case for him as a top-five guard. He’s one of the best distributors and creators in the Big East, as demonstrated by his 5.6 assist per game average (fifth best in the conference). But his offensive deficiencies make it impossible for me to dub him a top-two point guard. I would say he’s No. 4 behind Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine, Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier and Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore (in no particular order).
Matt Trebby Marquette Tribune/WMUR Sports; Top 3. Once again, it’s because it’s a down year in the Big East, but there’s no doubt Cadougan is up there with the conference’s best. What’s keeping him from being the best is that he still gets a bit out of control of himself at times. But, still, he’s one of the conference’s better point guards.
Todd Warner, Inside the AlI’m not going to sit here and say he is one of the two top point guards in the Big East.  But Junior is the best point guard for this Marquette squad.  People ask why he doesn’t score more, well he has scorers around him that can take care of that and he has had great numbers in the assist column.  He is more of a distributor than the scoring point guard that everyone wants him to be.
Alex Jesswein Marquette HoopsWhile Crowder’s admiration for his teammate is good to see, I have to disagree with him.  I think as a floor general and passer, you could make a case for Junior being top-two.  Unfortunately, there is more to being a point guard.  When you combine shooting and defense into the mix, there are a few more guys I’d take ahead of Junior, leaving Junior sixth on my list of Big East point guards behind (in no order) Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier, Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore, Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine, Villanova’s Maalik Wayns, Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins.
Mike Singer CBSSports: I think Vincent Council (Providence), Jason Clark (Georgetown), Maalik Wayns (Villanova) and Shabazz Napier (UConn) are all better PGs than Cadougan. But it doesn’t matter what I think because Crowder thinks Junior is second best. Crowder also told Juan Anderson that he felt comfortable playing with him. Whether Junior is 2nd or the 5th best is irrelevant because he’s, as DJO said — the team’s other leader — “the motor that makes us go.” The team is scoring 76.3 ppg with him at the helm, and that’s plenty.
5. Saturday will be Marquette’s second battle against Villanova after the Golden Eagles knocked off the Wildcats 81-77 on Jan. 1. Who wins this one, what’s the score, and what’s the key to the game?
Mike Nelson Marquette Tribune: Villanova is without a doubt a better team than it was when Marquette squeaked by on New Year’s Day. But it’s tough to pick against Marquette right now: Golden Eagles 77-70. Watch for the defensive job done on Maalik Wayns, who averaged 27.5 points per game in Villanova’s previous four contests. Marquette held him to 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting and it was a four point contest. Marquette may not be so lucky if he goes off in this one.
Matt Trebby Marquette Tribune/WMUR Sports: Marquette wins 75-67, and I think they do it quite comfortably, even though the scoreline is only eight. The only thing that kept Villanova in the game at the BC on New Year’s Day was their little runs throughout the game, but they were never actually a threat to win. I say Marquette limits those, and goes to 7-2 in Big East play.
Todd Warner, Inside the AlThankfully this game is not at the Pavillion, a very tough place to get a road win.  This has trap game written all over it for Marquette.  The key to the game will be which team makes the necessary adjustments after the first meeting.  Look at the matchup with Gardner and Yarou, the player who can be more effective and stay out of foul trouble will give his team the upper hand. Final: MU 79 Nova 71
Alex Jesswein Marquette Hoops: I think Marquette steals one on the road, knocking off the Wildcats 73-65. The key to the game will be Marquette’s ability to contain Maalik Wayns. In the first contest Wayns was held to just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting. However Wayns has been hot of late, scoring 92 points int he three contests prior to playing Louisville on Wendesday night. If he gets hot and is able to draw extra help it could be a long day for the Golden Eagles.
Mike Singer CBSSports: Saturday’s game will be sneaky-hard for Marquette if Villanova’s big men Yarou and Pinkston have a combined 27 and 10 like they did int he first meeting. Villanova was 3-for-17 from the three-point line and although it is second worst in three-point FG percentage in the Big East (30 percent) don’t expect that again. I think Marquette wins this game 75-70 and I think Gardner scores 17 points. The Golden Eagles will need to stay out of foul trouble and rebound.
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