Last season, the Marquette Golden Eagles did something defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers men’s basketball team 62-57 and while it may seem to be just a Big East win, it snapped a four game losing streak in the series.
The Panthers have had Marquette’s number as of late and their Head Coach Buzz Williams is just 1-3 in his career against the Panthers. Recent history is also against the Golden Eagles as their lone win at the Petersen Events Center was a 77-74 overtime victory on January 21, 2007.
This season Marquette is off to a strong start as they are 11-3 overall and 2-0 in Big East play. Should the Golden Eagles win the game it would be just the fifth time since the 1989-90 season.
The Golden Eagles have played just two contests on the road thus far and have lost both. The first was against then seventh ranked Florida and it was an 82-49 blowout in a nationally televised game. The second loss was against Green Bay 49-47. Marquette had a chance to win the game when Vander Blue was fouled with 35.1 seconds left in regulation but he missed the front end of the one-and-one and despite a rebound missed an open three point shot with three seconds to play sealing the loss.
Thus the Golden Eagles head to Pittsburgh hoping the third time will be a charm for them. Unfortunately the Pitt team they faced is coming off a strong win against the Georgetown Hoyas.
“We haven’t had any success thus far on the road and I don’t know that starting at Pitt changes those odds,” Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams said. “They’ve absolutely dominated us during my tenure in the Big East and are coming off the best they’ve played all year at Georgetown.”
Blue leads the Golden Eagles in points per game with 13.2, while DaVante Gardner is second with 12.9 and first in the team in rebounds a game with 5.2 off the bench.
Gardner has done this despite not starting a game this season, however his recent impact in victories over the Connecticut Huskies and Georgetown Hoyas allowed him to be named to the Big East’s Weekly Honor Roll this week averaging 15 points and 6.5 boards a game.
In his weekly press conference, Head Coach Jamie Dixon noted that the presence of Gardner changes the way Marquette plays.
“Gardner is a guy they go through,” Dixon said. “As soon as he comes in, they’re going inside.”
When he is not in, guard Durand Johnson notes that the Golden Eagles tend to be more of a ‘get out in transition and run’ type of team.
One team that learned this were the Connecticut Huskies. The game served as the Golden Eagles Big East opener and they were up double digits on two separate occasions in the second half before the Huskies battled back to take the lead, this despite Williams being suspended for the game due to a recruiting violation. Down three in the final seconds, it was senior Junior Cadougan who hit a buzzer beating shot to force overtime. Ultimately Marquette prevailed 82-76 in the overtime period.
“I saw two great teams that competed hard,” Huskies Head Coach Kevin Ollie said of the matchup. “We had an opportunity to come back twice and showed a lot of fortitude in not getting down and encouraging each other to get back into the game. We had two 10 point second half deficits and we came back from that. Unfortunately we lost in overtime, Cadougan made a great shot to send it into overtime – a contested 35 footer.”
The game between the Golden Eagles and Panthers will be televised at ESPN-U at noon.
Key to the game: Rebounding- It has been the make or break of the Panthers season. They were outrebounded against Cincinnati, including one sequence that resulted in a two minute possession. Against Rutgers, it was much of the same, however the Panthers dug in against Georgetown and got back that advantage on the boards they had established during their non-conference schedule. Marquette outrebounds their opponents by five rebounds a game and the Panthers will have to raise their game and be the more physical team.
Of note: The Panthers lead the series overall 8-7