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Exuberance Followed By Disapointment
The Marquette Golden Eagles entered the Old Spice Classic as somewhat of an unknown quantity, a wild card. Losing their top three scorers and leaders from the previous four years made fans wonder how the team would play against top-level competition.
Returning contributors this year for the Golden Eagles are senior forward Lazar Hayward, junior guard/forward Jimmy Butler, senior guard David Cubillan, and senior guard Maurice Acker. Key additions include junior college transfer guards Dwight Buycks and Darius Johnson-Odom and freshmen forward Jeronne Maymon.
The first round pitted Marquette against Xavier, the perennial winner of the Atlantic-10 conference and recent obtainer of high seeds in the NCAA tournament. It was a back and forth game until about the five minute mark, when the Golden Eagles pulled ahead through an 11-0 run punctuated by back to back Hayward threes and then held on to win 71-61.
Marquette was paced by Hayward with 27 points and Butler’s 15, while Buycks pulled down a team-high 7 rebounds.
Next up was heavily favored 15th ranked Michigan, but the Golden Eagles rose to the occasion and dismantled the larger, more physical Wolverines through slashing drives and quick kick-outs to pick apart the zone defense. Up 9 at the break, Marquette pulled away in the second half for a relatively easy 79-65 win to advance to the championship game.
Hayward again led the team with 22 points, with Butler chipping in 17 and Johnson-Odom adding 14. Hayward also had 9 rebounds and the team shot an impressive 17 for 21 from the foul line.
In the finale against Florida State, the Golden Eagles appeared to be in control for most of the game, building a lead that reached 17 at one point. However, with about 12 minutes left the Seminoles came storming back and won 57-56 on a fade-away jumper with 11 seconds left. Marquette threw away the ensuing in-bounds pass.
Marquette’s lack of depth was glaringly obvious in this game, as the team only regularly rotates seven players and the three-day tournament must have taken its toll on them. Still, that is no excuse for throwing away a 17 point lead.
Hayward again filled the stat-book with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks, while Johnson-Odom added 17 points and Butler chipped in with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Golden Eagles next play at Wisconsin (6-2) on December 12th at 4pm.