Limit turnovers, guarding ball screens crucial for road upset

Marquette travels to Louisville Sunday with a chance to distance itself even further from the Cardinals in the Big East standings.

With Syracuse in action as we speak, the Golden Eagles have a chance to sit alone in first place with a road win tomorrow.

It won’t be easy, however. Louisville is 10-1 at the KFC Yum! Center and stopped a three-game losing streak with a 64-61 win over Pittsburgh on Monday. It started the season 16-1 and earned a No. 1 ranking before falling to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown.

Louisville forward Gorgui Dieng caused a stir yesterday when he said Marquette was the best team in the league. Coach Buzz Williams just passed the compliment off, however.

“That’s just because Gorgui likes me,” Williams said. “I’ve known Gorgui for a long time, know all of the people around Gorgui, think he’s a great kid.

“He’s arguably the top center in the country in a lot of ways on both ends of the floor.”

With the game tomorrow, Marquette starts a stretch of four games in eight days, including three on the road. The Golden Eagles sit at 6-1 in Big East play and appear to be hitting their stride. Tomorrow’s match up will be a good barometer of exactly where this team is.

“I would say definitely we’re hitting our stride, especially with the team and the coaching staff,” Trent Lockett said. “We basically have half the season under our belt and I’m really feeling comfortable with the team and its surroundings.”

Russ Smith leads the way for Louisville, scoring 18.4 points per game, but shooting just 41.5 percent from the field.

Chane Behanan (10.8) and Peyton Siva (10.4) are the other two players who average double digits scoring, while Dieng pulls down 10 rebounds per game.

Louisville will likely play full court press from the start Sunday and Williams knows the Golden Eagles will have to be careful with the ball and not turn it over.

“If you feed them turnovers, they will beat you by 50,” Williams said. “If you can get the ball below the free throw line and take a shot that the four other kids on your team think you’re going to take and you have a chance for an offensive rebounds, then it at least gears them down.”

The last time these two teams met, Marquette had arguably its worst game in Williams’ tenure, during the quarterfinals of last year’s Big East Tournament. The Golden Eagles had earned a double bye as the No. 2 seed and played Louisville, the No. 7 seed.

Louisville bludgeoned Marquette 84-71 and forced the Golden Eagles into 26 turnovers.

“We were all really bad, I was really bad, Junior (Cadougan) was, our team was,” Williams said. “We had not handled the break. Maybe we went to New York a day too early. Maybe we thought we were better than we were.

“Obviously they went to the Final Four, so they have done more since that game than we have.”

Center Chris Otule said the debacle was at least partially due to Marquette’s inability to properly guard ball screens, something Williams stresses every day.

“Yeah, that was a bad experience,” Otule said of the Louisville game. “A lot of flat ball screens at the top of the key and they had Peyton Siva come in head on towards the basket and we didn’t do a good job of rotating, but that’s one thing we have emphasized this year.”

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