Golden Eagles faced Panthers at US Cellular Arena during Thanksgiving weekend
The UW-Milwaukee vs. Marquette men’s basketball game, held Nov. 27, was better than anticipated … at least, that is, until the national anthem was played and the ball was tossed in the air for the tipoff.
In their fourth meeting of the five-game series, the Panthers hosted the Golden Eagles at the U.S. Cellular Arena.
We watched a shootout at the “Cell.” UWM’s Anthony Hill scored the game’s first basket and teammate Tony Meier made the next one.
It was 4-0, UWM, before Darius Johnson-Odom got hot. He scored Marquette’s first 10 points and Jae Crowder hit a three for an early 13-9 lead.
Johnson-Odom lit up the place in the first half. He was 8-for-9 overall and 5-for-5 from downtown with 22 points in 18 minutes. So that was more than a point per minute.
The Golden Eagles had a 47-35 halftime lead. Before the game, Johnson-Odom shot 20 percent (5-for-25) from beyond the three-point line.
“I talked to Lazar (Hayward) about it,” Johnson-Odom, who scored 29 points, said. “He just told me to keep shooting. My team needs me to do more than score the ball. Obviously I need to shoot the ball well to give us a chance to win.”
Marquette‘s lead about eight minutes into the second half was at 56-44. The Panthers trimmed their deficit down to 60-52 at the 6 minute 42 second mark of the second half. With the margin within reach for the Panthers, it was now or never.
A three-point play by UWM’s Ja’Rob McCallum made it 60-55, Marquette. That margin swelled after two straight three-point plays by Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler and the lead was back up to 11 at 66-55 with 4:44 left. At that point, I wondered if the Panthers had any miracles and energy left to keep up with the Golden Eagles.
There was one more surge of power in UWM because on this night, there would be no blowout by Marquette. After the last media timeout with 3:55 left and the Golden Eagles up, 68-57, the Panthers scored seven straight points, five which came from Tone Boyle and another basket by McCallum off a steal from Junior Cadougan. It was 68-64, Marquette.
While the Golden Eagles were sweating bullets, the Panthers kept attacking, getting as close as two points at 70-68. It came down to free-throws in the final minute. Marquette had more trips to the line than UWM. Making free-throws down the stretch helped the Golden Eagles escape with a 75-72 win. They’re now 38-0 against UWM.
“We get to the free-throw line six times compared to their 16,” UWM coach Rob Jeter said. “They came down to free-throws that sealed the game for them. We lost. It was a hard-fought game, but the two stats are points off turnovers and free-throws.”
Indeed, the Golden Eagles, with their pressure defense, held a 15-point advantage in points off turnovers (21-6).
The Panthers learned in this game that the margin between victory and defeat was very close. Getting a few things right here or there was the difference between winning and losing.
“What we take from it was that we hit some adversity,” Jeter said. “And unlike a few other games we had and we responded to that adversity, I think that’s what we take from it.”
Said McCallum: “I think that everyone’s confidence should definitely be high. No heads should be held low. Just take every bit of feelings we got from this now and take it in stride from here.”
It should’ve been a wake-up call for Marquette to sink this low against a team from a mid-major conference (Horizon) after taking top-ranked Duke to the brink and hanging around with Gonzaga until the end. Team identity will help the Golden Eagles throughout their long season.
“This is only our seventh game of the season, we have a long way until the Big East season starts,” Johnson-Odom said. “I think our main focus right now is just being us, being Marquette, doing the things we know that we can do well that we know is going to help us win at the end.”
Added Williams: “I think that we have a long way to go on both ends of the floor. But I was encouraged by our spirit, our encouragement and our passion, whether we were in the game or out of the game, relative to the players.”
Marquette should be fine in playing against cupcakes Longwood (who?), TAMU-Corpus Christi, Centenary and Mississippi Valley State. And don’t forget about Wisconsin on Dec. 11.