Marquette basketball: Dominant team performance guides Golden Eagles to second straight win

Jamil Wilson scored a career best 25 points to guide Marquette to its second straight victory. (Pic credit: Reuters)

Jamil Wilson scored a career-high 25 points to guide Marquette to its second straight victory. (Pic credit: Reuters)

For the first time since December 17, the Marquette Golden Eagles (14-10, 6-5) have won two games in a row. In what was a must win game, the Golden Eagles delivered and outlasted the Seton Hall Pirates (13-11, 4-7) by a score of 77-66 on Tuesday evening.

From the tip-off, Jamil Wilson guided the Golden Eagles. Wilson buried his first four three-point attempts and accounted for 14 of Marquette’s 16 points early on.

Marquette jumped out to a quick 16-6 lead, one of the best starts they’ve had all year in conference play.

Wilson finished the game with a career high 25 points to go along with 10 rebounds, his second double-double of the season and second against Seton Hall.

With 9:54 left, Devante Gardner made a layup and gave Marquette its biggest lead of the first half at 26-14, but the Pirates would respond. Poor decisions led to 10 first half turnovers for the Golden Eagles and Seton Hall cut the lead to one point (34-33) at half.

The second half started with Marquette struggling to close out on shooters. High ball screens slowed defenders and opened up Seton Hall shooters. The Pirates were 10-21 from deep and 24-45 from the field for the game. They out-shot Marquette by 10.4 percent (42.9- 53.3), but the big difference ended up being free throws.

The Golden Eagles used their best free throw performance of the season to outscore the Pirates 30-8 from the line.

Todd Mayo was one of the primary players getting to the free throw line and converting for Marquette. Though he shot just 1-6 from the field for the game, he converted on 9-10 free throws.

With 6:28 left, Mayo stole a Seton Hall pass and ran the floor all the way to the rim. To the defenders surprise, Mayo dished a behind the back pass to a trailing Wilson for the lay-in, plus the foul. Wilson converted on the three point play and gave Marquette a 58-56 lead. They wouldn’t look back from there.

Gardner sealed the game in the late minutes with a strong drive across the lane, drawing a foul and throwing up an unorthodox shot, which banked off the backboard and went in. He completed the three point play and dashed the hopes of a Pirates comeback.

Marquette played like their tournament lives depended on it, and that was well enough down the stretch to hold on for the victory.

Gardner finished with 16 points and six rebounds, while Mayo tallied 11 points, six rebounds and one sweet dish.

The good…

As March nears, it was a huge victory for Marquette. They jumped Providence and Georgetown in the Big East standings, and currently sit in fourth place.

Last game it was Todd Mayo, and this game is was Jamil Wilson. Players are finally stepping up at the right times and taking over games with their efforts (as I requested last week).

This win was the best all-around team performance I’ve seen from Marquette in conference play all year.

They drove the lane, drew 25 fouls and converted from the free throw line (30-34) at the highest rate of the year (88.2 percent). As the season has worn on, free throws have become a weak point. It was good to see them get 30 points from the line in a Big East road game..a task that’s typically not easy to come by.

Another key factor was the second-chance point total. Marquette created 14 points off of 15 second-chance opportunities. Part of this can be attributed to Seton Halls’ lazy defense (there were multiple plays where the defense stood there, looked at the rim and waited), but Marquette was very aggressive on the offensive glass. Players followed their missed shots and grabbed many second-chance opportunities, which were converted into shots and free throws.

Chris Otule, Wilson and Gardner had a huge advantages in the paint and grabbed 10 of Marquette’s 12 offensive boards. The second chance points are good and all, but they also brings up the only real negative I have with their performance.

The bad…

Marquette shot 42.9 percent for the game compared to Seton Hall’s 53.3. They’re still taking poor shots and are going away from their “bread ‘n butter”. If they get the ball into the paint, it opens up so much more of the offense.

Aside from Wilson’s four early three-pointers, Marquette was once again cold from beyond the arch. They shot 5-14 from three, a lot of which were ill-advised shots early into the shot clock. For some reason with the lead, they feel the need to hoist up shots from deep with virtually no time taken off of the shot clock. This isn’t new, it’s been a problem all season long…but luckily for Marquette, it was covered up (or bailed out) in this game by stellar free throw shooting.

The only other three pointer was made by Jake Thomas, who hasn’t lived up to the “sharpshooter” label he was touted as when he transferred from South Dakota. Thomas was 1-6 for the game from three and 2-7 from the field. He played the second-most minutes (34) on the team, despite his poor shooting.

As Buzz desperately tries to find a lineup that gels together, he’s hasn’t strayed away from giving Thomas big minutes. He averages the second-most minutes (27.3) on the team and has already played three times the amount he played last season (206 minutes).

I’ve been waiting and waiting to see an improvement from Thomas, but haven’t seen it all season long. Currently, he shoots 33.8 percent from the field and all but 21 of his shots have come from three point range.

Many wonder why freshman JaJuan Johnson has been absent from the lineup. He only played one minute last game and was seen him minutes fluctuate all season long. In my opinion, Thomas lays out and hustles all over the court, but his defense isn’t significantly better than Johnson’s. Offensively, Johnson has the edge.

By no means should Buzz sit Thomas and give all time to Johnson…but what about splitting the minutes and giving an equal opportunity to Johnson?

The week ahead…

In order to have a shot at an at-large berth, Marquette can’t afford to lose many more games. There’s a couple of HUGE opportunities to make some movement in the Big East standings in then next few games.

They square off against Xavier (February 15) on Saturday for National Marquette Day. A win would propel them to a 7-5 conference record, good for third in standings. After that, they’ll host #18 Creighton on Wednesday (February 19). The Golden Eagles are 0-5 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 this season and must put an end to that streak in order to contend.

Obviously, the goal is to go 2-0 in those games and bring the win streak for four games. But realistically, it’s imperative that Marquette wins at least one of these games. If they were to lose both, they’re toast as far as an at-large berth is concerned.