No. 8 Marquette Golden Eagles (20-2, 9-0) @ USF Bulls (7-14, 2-7)
Sun Dome—Tampa, Fla.
6:00 CST Friday Night
TV: ESPN Full Court/360, WMLW
Broadcast Team: Don Criqui (play-by-play) and Jay Williams (analyst)
Although Marquette won their game at DePaul on Tuesday, the team will be looking for a bounce-back performance when they take the court Friday, after letting an 18-point lead slip down to four during their last showing.
“The way we handled [the DePaul game] in the second half and the things that we have talked about since then gives us another opportunity to get better,” said Marquette head coach Buzz Williams. “And that’s what we have got to do in order to finish this [season] the way we started it.”
Winning on the road, however, is never an easy task, and USF could present some potential problems for the Golden Eagles. For starters, the last time the Blue and Gold made a trip down to Tampa, it took a last second steal and layup by Jerel McNeal to get the win.
Looking at USF’s roster, it doesn’t take long to notice that Dominique Jones is an absolute scoring machine. He averages over 18 points per game and has scored 30 or more three times this season, including a 35-point outburst against West Virginia.
“Dominique Jones scored his 1,000th point last week, and he’s played three semesters of basketball,” said Williams. ”He’s on pace to break Pistol Pete’s (Maravich) record.”
The Bulls are not a one-man team, however, as both Jesus Verdejo and Augustus Gilchrist average in double figures. At 6’10” and 235 pounds, Gilchrist could cause problems for an undersized Marquette squad.
“Verdejo has continued to improve,” said Williams. “[And] we’ll have mismatch problems again with Gilchrist.”
Part of Marquette’s strategy over the last few weeks has been to go with a smaller lineup. So far that strategy has been successful, yet matchups still seem to be a key issue in deciding when the Golden Eagles will play “small ball.”
“We can’t have a completely steady diet of small ball,” said Williams, “and think that we are going to compete at an elite level all the time. I think there are times when you can do that, but we have to continue to get [solid bench play].”
Over the past few weeks, Marquette has been able to turn to Jimmy Butler on the bench for those solid minutes. Against DePaul he scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds, and last Saturday against Georgetown he scored nine points.
“I think he’s been extremely key to what we’ve done, said Williams. “I think the thing that has made him best is I am able to sub him for different guys now. When you have a guy that can sub at two or three spots, that makes you more versatile on both ends of the floor.”
The Golden Eagles will once again be looking for Butler to contribute off the bench when they try to extend their 12-game winning streak in Tampa. Marquette will also be shooting for their 10th Big East win and sixth road win in as many games.
USF PROJECTED STARTERS
G—Chris Howard (6’3” 200 lbs.): 7.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg
G—Jesus Verdejo (6’4” 205 lbs.): 13.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 34 % 3pt
G/F—Dominique Jones (6’4” 210 lbs.): 18.3 ppg, 4.0 apg, 5.0 rpg, 33% 3pt
F—Aris Williams (6’9” 235 lbs.): 3.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.5 bpg
F/C—Augustus Gilchrist (6’10” 235 lbs.): 10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg
F/C—Alex Rivas Sanchez (6’10” 230lbs.): 2.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, .5 bpg
F—Eladio Espinosa (6’7” 220 lbs.): 2.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.3 bpg
G—Justin Leemow (6’1” 175 lbs.): 1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1 apg