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Vander Blue vs. Jae Crowder: You decide

 

(Credit: TheBestDamnPoll.com)

I posed this question late last night on Twitter, and it’s certainly a good thing to be able to debate: Vander Blue vs. Butler or Jae Crowder vs. Murray State?

Marquette is in the Sweet 16 for the third straight season–something only Kansas, Florida, Ohio State and the Golden Eagles can say. And while Darius Johnson-Odom’s heroics did the job in 2011, it was Crowder’s all-around performance and Blue’s scoring explosion that had them into the second weekend for the second and third straight seasons, respectively.

But who performed better? It’s certainly something that can’t be proven as fact, and it goes deeper than a box score from each can show. Everyone has his or her opinion, but we’ll try and break it down here, based on numbers, pace of play and the clutch factor each player showed in the clinching game.

Opponent: First we’ll start with opponent. Both Murray State and Butler were ranked No. 45 on KenPom, both were No. 6 seeds playing third-seeded Marquette and were mid-majors with impressive wins and a couple ugly losses on its resumes. Murray State was ranked as the 25th most efficient defense, whereas Butler checked in at No. 49 this year. The Golden Eagles were a five-point favorite against Murray State, opposed to a 2.5-point favorite against Butler. Realistically, both teams were even, with Butler playing more of a disciplined, efficient brand of basketball and Murray State looking to battle as if every possession was 4th and goal.

Box score: And while it isn’t the end-all, be-all to the argument, here are each players’ box score in the third-round matchup:

VBJC

Blue certainly was more efficient in the scoring department (Crowder had the help of Johnson-Odom there), while Crowder–as he did all year–crashed the boards hard and added a full stat-line with his steals, blocks and lack of turnovers. The pace was slower in the Butler game on Saturday (68 vs. 72), which actually makes Blue’s point total all the more impressive.

On to the games, where Marquette trailed at halftime in both. By halftime, Blue had scored 10 points on 2-of-4 shooting (6-of-6 FT’s), grabbed one rebound and turned it over once in 14 minutes. Crowder also struggled in the first 20 minutes, scoring six points on 2-of-7 shooting, grabbing five rebounds and producing two steals in 19 minutes. He missed all four of his 3-point attempts.

But as is the case in most memorable performances, both players turned up their level of play in the final half, playing all 20 minutes apiece.

Blue scored a whopping 19 points (40 percent of Marquette’s output) on 7-of-11 shooting, made all three of his 3-point attempts and drained both free throws. He also added a rebound and had three steals, which all resulted in Blue points–two field goals and the free throws.

Crowder was equally impressive in the final 20 minutes, scoring 12 points (32 percent), grabbing seven boards, handing out two assists and blocking two shots. He committed one turnover to Blue’s three post-halftime giveaways.

Clutch factor: Each player had sequences late in the game that Marquette fans won’t soon forget, similar to Johnson-Odom’s 3-pointer against Syracuse and Dwyane Wade’s dunk against No. 1 Kentucky in 2003.

And for both Blue and Crowder, both sequences changed the momentum of the game and ultimately led to victories.

Blue actually had two. The first were back-to-back layups–one which came off his own steal–inside eight minutes that took Marquette from down two to up two, 60-58, the Golden Eagles’ first lead since early in the first half.

His other, more memorable play, was his corner 3-pointer inside two minutes which tied the game at 69. The clutch basket tied the game for the last time, and Marquette outscored Butler 5-3 the rest of the way to close out the win.

Crowder’s sequence was equally important late in the second half. Murray State had called a timeout at 5:01 after an Ivan Aska layup stopped an 8-0 Marquette run. Crowder hit Davante Gardner for a layup out of the timeout, and on the other end he drew a charge on Murray State guard Jewuan Long. He finished the sequence with a 3-pointer that pushed Marquette’s lead to six with 4:14 to play.

Murray State only got within four the rest from there on out, failing to recover from Crowder’s three-play stretch to essentially put the game out of reach.

So which was the more impressive performance? Blue scored 29 against a Brad Stevens team that already had the scouting report on him from the infamous Maui game, while Crowder’s 13 rebounds against one of the better rebounding teams in the country can’t be forgotten. Crowder’s blocks and one turnover are solid, yet Blue’s second half steals were clutch, and he was fantastic from beyond the arc when Marquette needed it most. You decide:

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One Comment on “Vander Blue vs. Jae Crowder: You decide”

  1. Mike
    March 27, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I can see this being a ‘latest is the greatest’ kind of argument. Crowder’s was better.

    “You are the latest, I am the greatest” – Ali

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