Blue uses 4 “and-ones” in final 8 minutes to cap 30 point night, put MU in 1st in Big East
Vander Blue scored 30 points on just 20 shots, including four shots in the final eight minutes that he made despite being fouled.
Both Syracuse and Marquette will be underdogs in tough road trips on Saturday (at Pitt and at Louisville), Marquette broke into the Top 25 today (please click here and leave a comment), and the win tonight tied them with Syracuse for No. 1 in the Big East. If Vander Blue is going to play like a 5-star, MU has a chance in that game, and Davante Gardner is not thrown out of the game ala Jerome Whitehead for an elbow, MU may have a chance in a game that I long wrote off as a double digit loss.
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For anyone who comes to Marquette games extremely early, you will see MU coaches and managers pounding MU players with tackling dummies while they try to still hit the shots. South Florida pulled two within single digits late, and two times in a row – with 7:33 to play and then 6:47 to play, Blue hit jumpers despite being fouled to put MU back ahead by double digits. With 3:24 to play he took a pass from Junior Cadougan and went to the hoop to draw a foul and finish to make it 60-48 MU. Finally with one minute to play, Trent Lockett fed Blue who again finished whle being fouled to make it 63-50 and give him a career-high 30 points.
As dominant as Blue was as the clear star of the game, the performance of Chris Otule and Steve Taylor cannot be overstated. Davante Gardner, the best player to date for MU, was ejected for an elbow to the face while securing a rebound and MU strauggling.
Otule blocked four shots, but more importantly South Florida players continually went to the basket only to see Otule and circle back out or pull up early for a bad shot. Otule looked as dominant as ever on defense, and started the game with a couple of dunks on offense. Just a few years ago if MU lost a 6-foot-5 center they had no one to go to, but tonight even when MU needed rest and Gardner was in the locker room, Taylor came in as a physically imposing player.
The impact of Otule and Taylor on defense was obvious. The Bulls hit over 90 percent of their free throws, and over 40 percent of their treys when they were a long way away from a shot blocker. However, inside the arc South Florida show below 20 percent with a 7 of 36 shooting night on 2-point shots.