- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2013


On the first day of the NCAA tournament, Marquette was down a point to Davidson with seven seconds to play. It did not have the ball.

Saturday, Marquette will play for a spot in the Final Four.

It’s a funny game sometimes.

The team that struggled to get past a 14-seed in Davidson and had to rally from nine down in the second half to beat Butler in its next game put together a shockingly strong performance to beat Miami 71-61 on Thursday night at Verizon Center.

The shock is not that Marquette did it, or that Marquette even won. The Golden Eagles are clearly a very strong team, good enough to earn a No. 3 seed in the East Region. The shock is that they dominated a team many – including D.C.’s own RG3 – thought could win the national title.

No one could have seen that coming. Miami, the champions of the ACC, was down by as many as 21 in the second half. Frankly, the Hurricanes were never really in this one.

“They had that confidence,” said Miami guard Rion Brown, who was 2-12 from the floor. He had lots of company in the misery department. Durand Scott was 3-13 and Trey McKinney Jones 3-10 as Miami only shot 34.9 percent. And it had to finish strong to do that.

“You could look and see, they felt like they couldn’t lose,” Brown continued. “They got out of two situations where they should have been going home, You get a team like that, they come in thinking they can’t lose. They came in and did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

Chris Otule, Marquette’s rugged center, didn’t dispute Brown’s point. When you don’t necessarily play your best and win, imagine what can happen when you do play your best.

“When you can win some close games like we did, it gives you the confidence you need,” Otule said. “We showed that against Miami. We know what we’re capable of and how good we are. We finally put together 40 minutes of basketball this game.”

Davante Gardner, another of Marquette’s strong inside players, said it was the best game Marquette has played. Gardner, who had 14 points, conceded the Golden Eagles can be “an on and off team. So we’ll see how it goes. I feel pretty good from tonight’s game, so I think we’ll be OK.”

Marquette, if it does manage to continue the same kind of play, certainly has the weapons to end up as the ultimate winner of this tournament. Otule is 6-11, 275 pounds. Gardner is three inches shorter, but 15 pounds heavier. The team doesn’t lack for bulk.

The outside players are pretty good, too. Vander Blue, who hit the winning shot in that Davidson game, had 14 points against Miami. He played all 40 minutes. Jamil Wilson had 16.

“They’re tough defensively, they’re tough inside, they rebound very, very well, they attack the rim very, very well,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga. “I would have liked for us to play our normal game so we could really see how good we both were. But we didn’t have it tonight, and they did.”

Championship teams are the one’s that make sure the other team doesn’t have it. On this night, Marquette played at that level against another championship-level team. But championship teams are also those that find a way to win when it isn’t quite there. Marquette has shown some of that, too, in this tournament.

“We’re thankful to still be playing,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said in his very brief opening statement to lead off the postgame interview.

Marquette has played in every NCAA tournament since 2006. It hasn’t stuck around this long. It won first-round games only twice in the first five years of that streak.

It made the Sweet 16 each of the past two seasons and moving beyond that takes some getting used to, it seems.

“We’re looking forward to playing in the Sweet 16,” Otule said before catching himself.

“I mean the Elite Eight. We got over that hump, finally.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide