The Marquette Golden Eagles advanced to the Elite 8 of this year’s NCAA tournament with a very impressive 71-61 win over the favored Miami (FL) Hurricanes. While the win was by 10 points, the game was never even that close as the final difference was created thanks to the Hurricanes finally starting to drain three-pointers after missing the great majority of their attempts in the game.
The Golden Eagles cruised to victory thanks to their inside presence, one they made early and continued to use throughout. The Golden Eagles scored the bulk of their points tonight inside the paint, and the Hurricanes’ inability to stop them from doing so helped the Golden Eagles build an early lead that they never relinquished.
For the third straight game, Devante Gardner came up huge for the Golden Eagles. The team’s big man scored 14 points off the bench and was the biggest (pun intended) presence in the paint for the Golden Eagles. Gardner was literally under the hoop for most of the Golden Eagles’ time on offense and was easy to get the ball to. This was especially striking not only because of Gardner’s size, but because of the Hurricanes had a problem right in front of them and had no answer for it.
Vander Blue also dominated the Hurricanes inside during the game, though he was more of a mixed bag, going for short-range shots as well as drives to the basket to score his points. Blue ended with 14 points in the game while attempting no three-point shots.
The most telling statistic concerning the Golden Eagles’ approach in this game was that they attempted only six three-point shots as a team in the entire game. Compare that to the 15 they attempted against the Davidson Wildcats and the 12 they attempted against the Butler Bulldogs. It’s pretty obvious that the team that can’t shoot three’s well at all no longer needs them to win or keep a game competitive.
Of the six attempted three’s, the Golden Eagles made three of them and all three came courtesy of Jamil Wilson.
The way this kind of play benefits a team is that it allows the Golden Eagles to be themselves. They haven’t been good at shooting three’s all season, so tonight they barely shot any at all. In other words, they stuck to what has worked for them all season instead of taking a ton of unnecessary three-point shots like the majority of college basketball teams. Crazy concept right?
Whether it’s the Syracuse Orangemen or Indiana Hoosiers, the Golden Eagles appear ready to bring coach Buzz Williams his first final four trip since taking over as Golden Eagles head coach in 2008. If they can play this kind of basketball on Saturday and succeed like they did tonight, there’s no doubt in my mind that they will be heading to Atlanta.