"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gardner-Fulce injured, Otule steps up 2 days before Duke

The injury bug hit right before the Duke game. Joe Fulce will miss two weeks and Davante Gardner, who is averaging more than a point a minute, entered the game early but hurt his shoulder hustling after a loose ball and later came back on the bench in sweats.

As bad as the timing is, the only silver lining is that the two injuries again showed how much deeper the MU team is than past years with the 10 healthy scholarship players who can all contribute.

Today, it was Chris Otule who took advantage of the extra minutes.

With 7:33 to go in the first half, South Dakota’s Jake Thomas put up a 3-pointer that could have cut Marquette’s lead to 26-24. However it missed, and Chris Otule grabbed the rebound en route to dominating much of the next 16 minutes of the game to push MU to a 61-38 lead.

Despite some breathers during those 16 minutes, Otule scored 15 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and drew four fouls.

At one point Otule scored 11 straight MU points in a 5-minute stretch that started with a great spin move dunk off a pass from Dwight Buycks to make it 41-27 MU. After a time out, MU set up a final play with Blue whipping the ball into Otule for a short jumper to make it 43-29 at the half.

Otule then opened MU scoring in the 2nd half off a feed from Jimmy Butler on which he was fouled at the 19:34 mark, missed a shot but then tipped it in with 18:23 to go, and then slammed home another dunk on a pass from Blue with 17:58 to go. His 11-0 run was completed by a free throw with 16:18 to make it 50-35.

MU certainly had some sloppy stretches – to be expected with an experienced team, before ultimately winning 82-69. The fact that they avoided a potential trap game two days before Duke, particularly with two of their three big men out, makes for a decent day.

I’m a stat guy, but you really have to watch to see how unbelievable Vander Blue is on the court and appreciate his defense, passing (6 more assists), and ability to play almost like a power forward at times (5 rebounds).

In a radical departure from recent years, MU continued to be a dominant rebounding team (won the boards 46-28), but to lose the three-point battle (MU gave up 9 more three pointers Saturday, while only hitting one of nine themselves).

Jimmy Butler’s 20 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals show the kind of assertiveness we hope to see against Duke Monday.

The rest of the wish list for Monday night against Duke is to see Gardner back on the court, not see the same sloppy play that resulted in 16 turnovers today, and have the MU defense find their rotation to better contest the 3-pointer.

MUTV Sports

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