Ranked 17th in the preseason poll, Marquette did not disappoint winning the slow paced game from the free-throw line as a team shooting 62.3% (33-53). Both teams shot below 36% in the contest. Southern fell to top-seeded Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament a year ago by just six points and were a quality first opponent in Buzz Williams’ opinion.
[Game 1 is a learning experience for Freshman Jajuan Johnson]
“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Williams. “It’s not your typical home opener at the high major level. I think over time it will be a really good RPI win.”
Davante Gardner led all scorers with 25 points (15-20 FT). Todd Mayo’s role is expected to increase in the backcourt this season and rose to the occasion pouring in 20 points. Jamil Wilson was also in double-digit scoring with 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Outside of Gardner, Mayo and Wilson the next leading scorers for Marquette were three players tied with only two points apiece.
Todd Mayo had 20 pts,5 reb and 2 steals vs Southern.
“Todd always has had a knack to score the ball,” said Williams. “Todd’s minutes in his first two years here are similar to Davante’s minutes in his first two and a half years here were predicated on his ability to be an asset and not a liability defensively. I have told him that since September. I think he’s improved. He made a couple really good defensive plays tonight. We don’t necessarily need to him to make steals, we need him to be very sound in what we’re doing as a team defensively and to his credit, he’s worked really hard.”
Gardner’s 15 made free-throws topped Marquette’s 13 made field goals in a bizarre box score due in large part to the referees points of emphasis this offseason in tightening up hand-check fouls. The 53 free throws attempted for Marquette were a single season program record. Williams consistently highlights the importance to his team to make more free throws than their opponent attempts and which held true against Southern.
“We’re more of a pressure team,” said Gardner. “This year we have to back off and move our feet more.”
Williams also added, “It’s not an emphasis. It’s a rule. You play with your feet, not your hands. It’s very explicit now. The team concept defensively becomes more heightened than ever before.”
By the first media timeout of the game four minutes in, Buzz Williams had already played 9 of his players. It will take time for Coach Williams early in the season to mold his roster and figure out which rotations click best. The three freshmen John Dawson, JaJuan Johnson and Deonte Burton all made their respective collegiate debuts for the Golden Eagles on Friday night. Derrick Wilson was relatively quiet in his debut as Marquette’s new starting point guard. Wilson didn’t attempt a shot but was 1-4 from the charity stripe with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 turnovers in a team-high 34 minutes.
Freshman Deonte Burton in the first game of his MU career.
Marquette never trailed in the game and led by as many as 14 points. The Golden Eagles wouldn’t let a Southern 9-1 run midway through the second half to pull the game to four points get any closer as they followed that up with a 11-1 run themselves despite being help without a field goal the last 8:25 of the second half.
Southern was paced by Malcom Miller’s 14 points and Yondarius Johnson and Tre Lynch each tallying 11 points.
[PG John Dawson had 1 pt and some steady defense in 6 minutes]
Marquette will be back in action on Nov. 12 vs. Grambling State at 6 p.m. CT and has the 26-game home winning streak still in tack, which is currently second longest in the nation.