Is it just me or does it feel like those nail-biting conference games have already started?
Marquette started out the regular season on a high note, dominating the Prairie View A&M Panthers and winning 97-58. Jimmy Butler lead the way with 18 points, 6 boards, 3 blocks and 2 steals. To my surprise (and maybe the surprise of others) Davante Gardner put up 17 points in only 13 minutes. Sure, the majority of these points came during garbage time, but points are points nonetheless. This was great news to hear given what Buzz told me a month ago about his attitude and skill set. Eric Williams chipped in 12 points, 3 boards and a steal, which is leaps and bounds above what his typical production was during last year's campaign. FG% was good (60%), 3-point shooting and free throws could've been better (30% and 63%, respectively)
All in all a good start for Marquette. Which meant Sunday's game against Bucknell would be a cake walk, right? Think again.
MU struggled early in the game, and was down 8 points at the half (was anyone else ready to jump off a ledge at that point?) Bucknell was hot from the perimeter all day, going 9-19 (47%). In the second half, Marquette went on a miraculous 24-0 run that put them ahead for good. The Bison wore down as the game went on and MU capitalized, winning by a final score of 72-61. Dwight Buycks was the stud performer with 17 points while going 3-3 from beyond the arc. Once again Davante Gardner had a solid performance with 11 points and 7 boards (please don't let this be a fluke).
On a side note, Jimmy Butler played for 38 of the 40 minutes. Give the guy some rest Buzz!
So the question is, what do we take away from this weekend? How much weight do we put on the first game vs. the second game? Which game is a better representation of who this team is?
First of all, realize that you have nothing to worry about after the scare Bucknell put into us. I tweeted before the game that I would just be happy with a win over the Bison. Two reasons for this: One, Bucknell puts together a decent squad every couple years. Remember, they knocked off Kansas in the 2005 tourney, and even cracked the top-25 a few years ago (I think it was 2006-07, but don't quote me on that). The second reason is that Villanova only beat them by 16 points at home a couple days before. Villanova is an elite program that's well-coached, and for them to only win by 16 tells me that Bucknell at least gave them a run for their money.
I think both games are representative of us in that they show we're having growing pains. There's a lot of talent on this team and when they click, they really click. But given their lack of collegiate experience, games like Sunday are going to happen along the way. Although a blowout win over Bucknell would've been great, I'm pleased with how the first two games have panned out (for whatever that's worth).
Next game is Wednesday against UW-Green Bay, who is coached by former MU great Brian Wardle. Let's hope this team grows up a lot more after that game, as we'll take all the help we can get with Duke looming on the schedule for next week.