NCAA Division I Sports
NCAA Division I Sports
By TODD ROSIAK firstname.lastname@example.org
After two weeks away from home, the Marquette Golden Eagles returned to the Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon for some home cooking. On the menu were the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, who turned out to be easy pickings without injured leading scorer Steve Holdren.
MU held SDSU without a basket for the opening 9 minutes 9 seconds of the first half, jumped to a 27-point lead by halftime and never looked back in registering its most lopsided victory in more than two years, 87-52.
Most of the excitement displayed by the announced crowd of 11,342 on this day came during a pre-game ceremony honoring former MU standout Travis Diener, who was in town as a member of the NBA's Orlando Magic.
Diener, who gave a pre-game talk to Marquette players and later sat with the team on its bench for the game, witnessed his replacement at point guard, freshman Dominic James, pick right up where he left off before being drafted by Orlando last summer.
James led five players in double figures with 14 points while also dishing out eight assists, five rebounds and registering five of the Golden Eagles' Bradley Center-record 20 steals.
MU (5-2) also forced SDSU (1-5) into 32 turnovers, which the Golden Eagles cashed in for 41 points, and held the Jackrabbits to just 34% shooting.
“Today they just went out there and there was no chance for South Dakota State,” Diener said. “It was pretty much over by the tip. That's what you've got to do - beat the teams you're supposed to beat and put an emphasis on blowing them out so that when everybody sees the score they recognize that Marquette didn't take this team for granted.
“They went out and took it to them.”
SDSU, which lost by a fairly respectable margin of 17 points at Kentucky on Nov. 13 and by 25 at Illinois six days later, sealed its fate early by missing its first nine shots and turning the ball over seven times as MU jumped to a 17-4 lead nearly 9 minutes into the game.
It got even uglier from there, and by the 16:15 mark the Golden Eagles led, 56-20, after a sequence of three consecutive dunks - two by Ousmane Barro - a layup by Jerel McNeal and a three-pointer by Steve Novak.
MU stretched its lead to 41 points on a couple of occasions shortly thereafter before finally calling off the dogs down the stretch. For a team coming off a convincing loss in its first hostile arena Wednesday in Nebraska, the game was a nice recovery for the Golden Eagles, albeit against an undermanned and overmatched opponent.
“We haven't been in (a game) like this in a long, long time,” said coach Tom Crean. “In defense of their team, they're really missing a pretty good player. But our concern was getting better ourselves today. Any time you're coming off a long trip like we had and a tough game Wednesday night, it's really, really important that we get back to our basics.”
MU's next marquee game comes in six days at the Kohl Center in Madison, where the Golden Eagles renew their annual rivalry with Wisconsin. Before that they host a Valparaiso team in the midst of a run of road games in which the Crusaders played at Iowa on Saturday and will travel to Charlotte and Duke after playing MU.
“Two years ago they gave us a lot of trouble with their 1-1-3 zone, so it's just a matter of getting prepared for different things,” said Crean. “But the biggest thing is they'll have a lot of confidence to come in here and play. There'll be a lot of familiarity between our players and their players.”