RTC is reporting from the East Region semifinals in Washington, DC, this weekend.
- Marquette Played Like It Has Been Here Before. This is Buzz Williams’ third straight Sweet Sixteen with the Golden Eagles and it showed. Two years ago, Marquette got creamed by North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen; last year his team competed better against Florida before the Gators pulled away and won by 10 points. This time around, it was Williams’ group that came into the regional as the experienced squad — key players such as Vander Blue, Jamil Wilson, Davante Gardner and Chris Otule had already been to the Sweet Sixteen twice before, while not a single player on the Miami roster had such great experience. Preparation, of course, is key, but the mental game can almost be as important as the physical one. Marquette played with a poise and focus that belied its status as the underdog here tonight.
- These Golden Eagles Are One Resilient Group. Marquette made it a point to punch the Hurricanes right in the mouth from the opening tip and it worked. Their game plan was quite clearly to out-tough Miami to the ball and to find the big men inside off dribble penetration and ball reversals. The Golden Eagles only took a total of six three-point attempts all evening (making three), bolstering the point that they thought the weakness in the Miami defense was on the interior. Keeping in mind that the Golden Eagles lost two second round draft picks in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder last season, the ability for Marquette players to get better year-over-year and keep the program not only relevant but improving is phenomenal. Most people who know the sport of college basketball recognize that Williams is one of the best coaches in the business, but with a run like this (again), it’s time for the rest of America to start to notice.
- You Gotta Make Shots. It’s a simple-sounding proposition, but Miami started cold, played cold, and finished cold tonight. A 20.7% first half was followed by a better 47.1% second half, but many of those makes came after the game was out of reach. The Hurricanes ended with a 34.9% shooting night, with the backcourt of Shane Larkin (4-of-8), Durand Scott (3-of-13), Trey McKinney-Jones (3-of-10) and Rion Brown (2-of-12) really finding a miserable existence throughout the game. Jim Larranaga said afterward that his team was out of sync all night and that his team didn’t “look like [them]selves” due to a number of external factors.
Star of the Game. The Marquette Big Men. Maybe Miami’s Reggie Johnson was missed after all. The trio of Chris Otule, Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson consistently found themselves in good position to receive passes near the basket and convert them. They combined to score 41 points on 15-of-25 shooting from the field, grabbed 15 rebounds and only committed three fouls. None of the three were dominant, but Miami had no answer for pushing them away from the basket and keeping them quiet, either.