Marquette: Peaking at the Right Time

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By David K.

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2/25/08

In my last Ring Out Ahoya article, I correctly prophesized that maybe it was a good thing Marquette hit a rough stretch in the middle of the season.  After back to back losses to Louisville and at Notre Dame, the Golden Eagles seemed as if they were fading fast in the Big East.  But MU has responded in a big way, destroying their competition in their last four games by an average of more than twenty points per game, and seemingly peaking at the perfect time as March is right around the corner.

Yes, their wins at Seton Hall, vs. Pitt, at St. John’s, and vs. Rutgers were all games Marquette should have won.  However, what really makes these past two weeks impressive is the convincing fashion in which the Golden Eagles have been victorious.  Defense has been the catalyst in all four wins as Tom Crean’s crew turned up their ball pressure forcing 76 turnovers.  Everything seems to be clicking as the entire roster is making contributions and the starting five is living up to the lofty expectations set for them at the beginning of the season. That is vitally important with four games remaining in the regular season.  Big Monday puts Marquette on the national stage visiting a Villanova squad that has risen from the dead.  After dropping five straight and falling to 4-7 in conference, the Wildcats have been on a role as of late, winning four of their last five. Their only loss was a two-point defeat to Georgetown on late free throws coming after a questionable foul with less than a second left. 

Speaking of the Hoyas, after the Golden Eagles grapple with ‘Nova, they return home to host JT3’s boys.  This week will tell just how serious a contender Marquette may be come tourney time.  Running their win streak to six games with a pair of big victories against talented opponents would certainly help their seed come Selection Sunday and more immediately, inch them closer to a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament. 

No team ever wants to face an opponent who is playing their best ball heading into March.  If the Golden Eagles have anything to say about it in the next couple weeks, they very well could be that dreaded match-up nobody wants in the NCAA Tourney.

Stat Lines to Love

Dominic James vs. Pitt
2-11 FG, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 12 assists, 0 turnovers

James was absolutely phenomenal against the Panthers, putting his shooting struggles aside to get his teammates involved with “DVR rewind” worthy dishes.  James has amazing abilities to create on nights when his shot is off.  Now if he can just do this on a regular basis…

Jerel McNeal vs. Rutgers
7-10 FG, 14 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocks, 0 turnovers

That is about as complete a game as a college player can have.  We all know about McNeal’s abilities on the defensive end, but when he plays within himself on the offensive side, he is a force.  He plays much taller than his 6’3 stature. He’s a great rebounder and uses the glass on drives almost as well as Dwyane Wade used to.  Again, consistency is the issue.  If McNeal can limit the out of control with the ball tendencies and focus on his all-around game, the Golden Eagles are that much better.

Hey Sportscenter Anchors…
Jerel is NOT pronounced like Darrell with a “J.”  Figure it out!

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