It’s fitting: Buzz Williams reaches Sweet 16 with his most ‘Marquette’ team to date

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — All you need to know about this Marquette team can be summed up in a two minute stretch that happened early in the second half of the No. 3 seed Golden Eagle’s 71-61 win over No. 2 seed Miami in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

The Hurricanes were a no-show, digging themselves a 14-5 hole in the first five minutes and finding themselves down 29-16 at the half. By the time Jim Larranaga called his first timeout of the second half with 14:47 left in the game, Miami was down 41-23 and you had to wonder if the Hurricanes were ever going to show up.

Well, they did, if only briefly.

Miami came out of that timeout and star point guard Shane Larkin drew a foul, which sent us to another TV timeout. That’s seven minutes of commercials broken up by 16 seconds of game time, enough to knock any team out of a rhythm. Larkin hit both free throws, and Miami immediately threw a press on. They forced a turnover by Trent Lockett immediately, which led to a layup for Durand Scott. Marquette wasn’t rattled, however, and calmly broke the press on their next possession, working the ball inside to Davante Gardner for a layup. Miami answered with a three, cutting the lead to 13 and finally putting together some kind of momentum offensively.

But Junior Cadougan broke Miami’s press singlehandedly on the next possession, going the length of the court for a layup. After another missed jumper from Kenny Kadji, Marquette worked the shot clock, getting a 15 foot jumper from Vander Blue to put them back up 17 with 12:17 left. That lead eventually grew to 21 points, and Miami wouldn’t get that close again until there was less than a minute left on the clock.

The Golden Eagles didn’t get rattled by that press. They weren’t affected by the fact that the first time they really got into a rhythm, they were forced to spend seven minutes sitting on the bench while the NCAA raked in TV’s advertising dollars. Not in the slightest. They calmly broke the press, then did it again, and then slowly but surely extended their lead.

That’s toughness.

“Buzz’s favorite quote is ‘ring the bell everyday’,” senior forward Jamil Wilson said after the game. What’s that mean? “Getting up and showing up every time.”

“In this part of the season, in March, crucial possessions can come back and haunt you. So we just define toughness by being there every possession.”

And for 40 minutes, Marquette did just that. Miami’s game-plan isn’t a secret. So much of what they do offensively runs through Larkin and his ability to use ball-screens from Miami’s big men to create. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Marquette’s focus on the defensive end of the floor was getting the ball out of Larkin’s hands. Every time Miami tried to set him a ball-screen, Marquette trapped him. If they were going to get beat, they were going to get beat by Trey McKinney Jones and Kenny Kadji and Rion Brown hitting threes, not by Larkin coming off of a ball-screen.

Marquette also took advantage of their size inside. With Reggie Johnson physically and Julian Gamble mentally back in Miami — Gamble finished with six points and six boards, the majority of which came when Miami was already down by 20 — Gardner and Chris Otule had their way in the paint, while Trent Lockett swooped in and finished with 11 boards, including one swooping, highlight-reel tip-dunk in traffic. All told, Marquette scored 40 of their 71 points in the paint.

“All of the things that we wanted to do — keep them out of the paint with their drives, keep them off the offensive boards, find the open man on our end and make some threes — we weren’t able to do any of those things,” Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said.

It’s only fitting that Buzz Williams finally broke his Sweet 16 curse with this group of cast-offs and misfits. Perhaps no team in his tenure in Milwaukee has better personified Marquette basketball than this group.

There aren’t any pros on this roster unless Vander Blue develops three-point range. Trent Lockett is a transfer from Arizona State. Jamil Wilson couldn’t crack the rotation at Oregon. Chris Otule called himself terrible coming out of high school. Davante Gardner is a 6-foot-7, 300 lb center that committed to Marquette over South Florida.

Everyone on this Marquette team has a chip on their shoulder. Everyone of them has been overlooked and underrecruited. Everyone of them, including their head coach, has gotten to where they are through grit and determination and effort. They are the epitome of an underdog.

Are they talented? Compared to me, yes. Compared to Indiana? Not as much.

The irony?

That’s what they want to hear. That’s what they feed off of. Pick them to lose in the opening round? Well, that just means the Golden Eagles are going to get that many more floor burns and fill up the puke buckets in practice just that much more.

“If you just look at our roster, you wouldn’t think we’re an Elite 8 team,” Blue said. “That fuels our fire. There’s nothing we can do about that. When we step on the court, if you don’t give us respect, we’re going to earn it. Sooner or later, you’ve gotta give credit where credit is due.”

“We want to keep being the hunter. We don’t want to be the hunted.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

 

VIDEO: St. Bonaventure beats Vermont on Matt Mobley buzzer-beater

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St. Bonaventure outlasted Vermont in Olean, NY, on Saturday afternoon, winning 81-79 thanks to this buzzer-beating three from Matt Mobley.

It was the only shot that Mobley, who is averaging 19.6 points on the season, made on the day:

Vermont guard Trae Bell-Haynes missed a layup on the previous possession, but Payton Henson was there for a put-back to give Vermont a 79-78 lead with just five seconds on the clock.

Jaylen Adams scored 17 points and had five assists to lead St. Bonaventure. Courtney Stockard added 14 points, and Amadi Ikpeze and Izaiah Brockington each chipped in with 13.

Anthony Lamb led the Catamounts with 27 points.

VIDEO: Arena evacuated during Ohio State-Appalachian State game

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There was a weird scene on Saturday evening as Ohio State hosted Appalachian State.

Early in the second half, a fire alarm went off as the game as being played, which was followed by an announcement played over the PA asking everyone to evacuate the arena.

And it was all captured live on the Big Ten Network:

The game was eventually continued, and it appears that the incident was nothing more than the fire alarm working the way that it is supposed to. From a statement released by Ohio State: “Tonight’s event was interrupted by a failure on an exhaust fan. The fan shut off and allowed the smoke from a concession stand to enter the fresh air return on one of our air handlers and activated one of our smoke detectors. The building systems worked as they were designed and we were able to reset the alarm, repair the exhaust and return to normal operations.”

Clemson rallies past No. 22 Florida 71-69

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Marcquise Reed threw a 75-foot pass to Elijah Thomas for a dunk that put Clemson ahead to stay with 37 seconds left, and the Tigers rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half Saturday to beat No. 22 Florida 71-69 in the Orange Bowl Classic.

With Clemson trailing 68-67, Reed rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by KeVaughn Allen and threw a football-style pass from one free-throw lane to the other, hitting Thomas on the run for an easy score.

Clemson (9-1) beat a ranked team for only the eighth time in school history and continued its best start since 2008. Florida (6-4) lost for the fourth time in the past five games.

The Tigers won despite having a point taken off the scoreboard with 4 seconds left. Thomas’ free throw put Clemson ahead 70-68, but the point was wiped out when the officials realized it was Reed who had been fouled.

Reed then made two free throws to help seal the win. He finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Gabe DeVoe added 19 points and six rebounds for the Tigers, who shot 51 percent. Clemson coach Brad Brownell earned his 300th victory.

Jalen Hudson scored the Gators’ first 12 points and finished with 23.

Egor Koulechov sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Gators a 40-33 halftime lead, and they were up 47-35 early in the second half. Clemson took its first lead since 4 minutes into the game when DeVoe sank a 3-pointer to make it 67-66.

The meeting was the first between the teams since 1957.

No. 19 Florida State lost to Oklahoma State 71-70 in the first game of the doubleheader.

BIG PICTURE

Florida coach Mike White has been unhappy with his team’s transition defense. The Gators allowed only seven fast-break points, but that included Thomas’ decisive dunk.

UP NEXT

The Gators play host to James Madison on Wednesday.

Clemson plays host to South Carolina on Tuesday.

Oklahoma State hands No. 19 Florida State 1st loss, 71-70

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — A grinning Mitchell Solomon collapsed on his back under the Florida State basket, looking up toward his celebrating Oklahoma State teammates and the scoreboard above them.

Cowboys 71, Seminoles 70.

Solomon scored on a tip-in with 6 seconds left and then happily fell to the floor at the other end of the court when he took a game-clinching charge, and Oklahoma State knocked No. 19 Florida State from the unbeaten ranks Saturday in the Orange Bowl Classic.

Florida State went ahead on Terance Mann’s follow with 10 seconds remaining, but Oklahoma State needed only four seconds to go the length of the court to score for the 14th and final lead change.

Following a timeout, the Seminoles’ CJ Walker drove into the lane but collided with Solomon and was called for the foul, sealing the Cowboys’ win.

“I just try to pride myself on playing that way all the time,” Solomon said.

Florida State (9-1) missed a chance to match the best start to a season in school history. Oklahoma State (8-2) ended a streak of seven consecutive losses against ranked teams since February.

“To come out and compete for 40 full minutes — we hadn’t done that yet this year,” Cowboys coach Mike Boynton said. “We beat a really good team today. Florida State is going to win a lot of games in the ACC.”

The Seminoles’ loss left only four unbeaten teams in Division I: Villanova, Arizona State, Miami and TCU.

“We’re in a conference where you can’t get caught up in streaks, because nobody in the ACC is going to go undefeated,” coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It doesn’t happen. Tonight we played against a team that played a little better than us.”

Florida State squandered a seven-point lead in the final 8 minutes but still had a chance to go ahead in the final seconds. Oklahoma State forward Jeffrey Carroll said the final sequence starring Solomon at both ends of the court had a cinematic tinge.

“It almost felt like slow motion,” Carroll said, “like a movie almost.”

Boynton said he expected the Seminoles to drive to the lane on their final possession.

“We were just fortunate that Mitch knew the right play,” Boynton said. “He came over and gave up his body, sacrificed for his teammates and got our team a win.”

Solomon had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Carroll, a senior, made his first start of the season and scored 23 points to surpass 1,000 for his career, and was voted the game’s outstanding player

Senior Phil Cofer scored a career-high 22 points for Florida State. Mann, a junior, had 20 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

The Seminoles committed a season-high 22 turnovers against a variety of Oklahoma State defenses.

“They were extremely prepared,” Hamilton said. “They mixed the defenses up.”

BIG PICTURE

Eight players had two or more turnovers for Florida State. Oklahoma State has forced at least 19 turnovers in each of the past four games.

The Seminoles shot 41 percent and were held well below their scoring average of 87.1 points per game. They were outscored 37-32 in the second half — the first time they’ve been outscored in a half this season.

Florida State also missed three of six free throws in the final 3:20.

BIG HOLE

The Seminoles fell behind 9-4 for their biggest deficit of the season.

NEWCOMER

St. John’s transfer Yankuba Sima made his Cowboys debut and had five points in 16 minutes.

INJURY REPORT

Seminoles center Christ Koumadje (foot) dressed but missed his seventh game in a row.

STAYING LOOSE

Solomon stood at the end of the bench when he was not in the game.

“I just stand up so my knees don’t get tight and stiffen up,” the senior said.

Said Carroll to Solomon: “You’re getting old.”

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State hosts Tulsa on Tuesday.

Florida State hosts Charleston Southern on Monday.

No. 2 Michigan State holds off upset-minded Oakland 86-73

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DETROIT (AP) — Tom Izzo and Michigan State probably needed a game like this.

Little Caesars Arena definitely needed it.

Detroit’s new downtown sports venue — where empty seats at Red Wings and Pistons games have limited the buzz so far — was a pulsating home for a college basketball doubleheader Saturday, and No. 2 Michigan State capped the all-local event with an 86-73 victory over upset-minded Oakland.

Michigan beat Detroit Mercy 90-58 in the opener , but the atmosphere really picked up after Oakland took the lead in the second half against Izzo’s Spartans. Michigan State finally went on a 12-2 run late in the game to pull away.

“We took some punches,” Izzo said. “They hit some shots in a row, guys, and the place started getting into it. That’s where I thank our fans, because we had more of them, and they rose up and we hit a couple of those 3s. It changed.”

Kendrick Nunn scored 32 points for the Golden Grizzlies, who stayed right with the talented Spartans (10-1) until the final minutes. Michigan State improved to 16-0 against Oakland, but only after the type of test the Spartans can expect again from underdogs down the road.

Nick Ward had 15 points and 15 rebounds for Michigan State, which finished with a 45-30 edge on the boards and made enough outside shots to keep Oakland (6-5) at bay. It was tied at 66 before the decisive run by the Spartans, which included two 3-pointers by Winston.

Kenny Goins had eight rebounds and seven assists for Michigan State.

“Nick and Kenny were huge,” Winston said. “They cleaned it up.”

Michigan State led 38-33 at halftime, but it was clear early in the second half that this would be no easy win for the Spartans. Oakland’s Martez Walker had two four-point plays in the first few minutes of the half. The second one put Oakland up 52-49 with just under 15 minutes remaining.

Michigan State kept scoring, however. Winston finished with 19 points, Joshua Langford scored 17 and Miles Bridges had 11. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 10.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe didn’t want to hear about any moral victory for his team.

“I am not happy,” he said. “We should have won the game. Oakland should have won this game.”

BIG PICTURE

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies did what they needed to do to make a game of it, shooting 7 of 15 from 3-point range in the second half. They struggled around the basket, though. Michigan State had a clear rebounding advantage, and Oakland had a hard time scoring inside.

Michigan State: The Spartans turned the ball over 17 times but were able to close off the perimeter at the very end, finally containing Nunn. It was a win that bodes well for Michigan State’s ability to stave off potential upsets in the future.

RETURN

Nunn’s status was in question leading up to the game because of an ankle issue. Kampe said there was concern that Nunn could be out for the season, but a second opinion indicated it was just tendinitis that can be managed.

“I was pretty relieved just to know that I couldn’t damage it anymore,” Nunn said.

PREVIEW?

Little Caesars Arena is hosting the first two rounds of this season’s NCAA Tournament, and if all goes well for the Spartans, they’ll be playing close to home in the venue.

“This is so cool for Detroit,” Izzo said. “It’s just starting to feel like a city that’s coming back to life, and if we can be a little part of it today and we can be a big part of it in March, no one will be more excited about it than me.”

UP NEXT

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies host Towson on Wednesday night.

Michigan State: Winners of nine straight, the Spartans probably won’t be challenged too much Monday night when they host Houston Baptist.