There are near certainties peppered throughout the college basketball landscape: Jim Boeheim’s team coming out in a 2-3 zone on defense; Bob Huggins not donning a suit on game day; John Calipari having at least two future lottery picks on his roster; and, more locally, the Marquette Golden Eagles triumphing over any MEAC opponent on their schedule, among others.
The aforementioned Golden Eagles’ unblemished run of success against foes from the MEAC (26-0 all time entering the weekend) was nearly compromised in their final dress rehearsal on Saturday prior to the onset of Big East play on New Year’s Day.
Despite a season-high 20 turnovers and playing for sustained stretches to the level of its competition, Marquette (9-3) emerged victorious against the Eagles of North Carolina Central, 75-66, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center to put a ribbon on its season-long four-game home stand.
While the blue and gold had little trouble in respect to putting the ball in the basket (MU shot 60.0 percent on the afternoon), miscues throughout the contest allowed the Eagles to stay within striking distance for the bulk of the game, including knotting the score at 60-60 with 6:27 remaining.
Nevertheless, Marquette notched its second consecutive victory—and 16th straight at home—and heads into 2013 knowing that much work is to be done.
“I feel like sometimes we play down to our competition,” cited sophomore forward Juan Anderson, who scored nine points on 3-of-4 shooting, according to jsonline.com. “Once the Big East starts, we’ll adjust and buckle down.”
Added head coach Buzz Williams, who will not be on the Marquette sideline on Tuesday as the fifth-year head coach serves a one-game suspension stemming from an off-season recruiting violation, as reported by jsonline.com, “You can’t turn the ball over on 30 percent of your possessions and trade baskets and be good. That’s hard to do in any league.”
Pacing the Golden Eagles was senior point guard Junior Cadougan, who accounted for 16 points—including eight of MU’s final 14 points to put the game on ice—and three steals. Vander Blue, meanwhile, net double figures for the fifth time in his past six outings at the Madison native pumped in 16 points.
Both teams came out swinging, with Marquette, who out rebounded the Eagles, 25-19, connecting on their first eight shots. NC Central (6-7), courtesy of a 53.6 percent showing from the field in the opening frame, though, was able to keep pace for the bulk of the half.
Trailing by 12 with 2:27 prior to intermission, the Eagles, who edged MU in fast break points, 19-18, concluded the first half on an 6-0 run to pull to within 43-37 at halftime.
Marquette, who shot 22-of-27 from the free throw line, led 52-43 with 14:14 to play. However, over the ensuing eight minutes, the Golden Eagles would account for one field goal and six miscues as NC Central, who has now dropped three of their past four games, pulled even via a Jeremy Ingram layup.
Aside from knotting the score, Ingram’s layup also served as a much-needed wake-up call for the Golden Eagles. Kick started by a tip-in from Todd Mayo, whose 12 points led all MU players off the bench, two possessions later, Marquette scored 14 of the game’s subsequent 17 points to—once and for all—squash the upset bid by NC Central.
While a win is, indeed, still a win, the question as to whether the Marquette Golden Eagles are ready for the bright lights that is the Big East will be answered on Tuesday when the play host to UConn. Tip off between the Golden Eagles and Huskies is slated for 7:00p.m. CST.