Blue, Golden Eagles impress James, Wade
Blue slammed home an alley-oop pass from Junior Cadougan early in the second half, making a pivotal play in what would become a 16-2 run as the Golden Eagles shed a sluggish start and beat Seton Hall 66-59.
Blue’s high-flying dunk certainly got Wade’s attention. The former Marquette standout pumped his fist a couple of times as his old team finally seemed to be coming to life.
“LeBron’s my favorite player,” Blue said. “And D-Wade is a great guy. I wasn’t paying attention to them, but I heard that they were up and going crazy. That obviously makes me feel good, coming from two great players.”
Blue, a sophomore, might have been impressed by the presence of NBA royalty, but senior Jae Crowder went out of his way to say that he wasn’t star struck.
“Doesn’t matter,” Crowder said. “No. They’re a basketball player, I’m a basketball player. It doesn’t matter. But I appreciate them coming out.”
Crowder had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Blue scored 16 points and Darius Johnson-Odom added 14 for the Golden Eagles (19-4, 8-2 Big East), who extended their winning streak to seven games. The Golden Eagles were without big man Davante Gardner, who sprained his left knee in the victory at Villanova on Saturday.
Herb Pope scored 16 points for the Pirates (15-7, 4-6), who have lost five straight.
“I think everyone is disappointed about this losing streak and no one is happy, but we understand this is part of a growing process and we’ll keep coming out and fighting,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said.
It all happened in front of James and Wade, who sat on the baseline near the Marquette bench and were cheered by the crowd when they were introduced on the video board in the first half. Miami is in town to play the Milwaukee Bucks tonight.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams joked that Wade and James were a distraction to his oldest son.
“He’s like the biggest fan of D-Wade and LeBron, ever,” Williams said. “We win, it was our seventh game in a row, and he comes down on the floor (and says), ‘Dad, I met LeBron.’”
Turning his attention to his own players, Williams spoke highly of Blue, who had eight rebounds—and hit a few clutch free throws for a change.
Crowder said he wants to see more of that from Blue.
“That’s what we need him to do, night in and night out,” Crowder said. “When he does that consistently, I think we’ll be even better than (the way) we’re playing right now. A lot of teams are disrespecting him because of his lack of consistency early in the year. But once he gets that down, we’ll be even better.”
And the Golden Eagles will need more effort from everyone as long as Gardner is out injured.
The 6-foot-8, 290-pound Gardner is having an impressive season, and his inside play has been critical in the wake of a season-ending left knee injury to center Chris Otule.
Williams said he didn’t tear any ligaments, but didn’t have a timeline for his return.
“I think it’s just hard to guess when you weigh 290 pounds, how long does it take to get all the swelling out? So we’re not trying to hide anything,” Williams said. “He didn’t tear anything. He will be back. When will he be back? I don’t know.”
Marquette trailed 30-26 at halftime, but seemed to snap out of it once Blue converted that alley-oop to cut the Seton Hall lead to two.
“The team needed a boost,” Blue said. “We were just out of synch for a while, balls were going everywhere, and we just needed something.”
Pope scored inside for Seton Hall, but Blue hit a 3-pointer. After an empty possession by the Pirates, Blue scored on a driving layup to put Marquette up 39-38 with 12:23 left.
Crowder scored for Marquette, then Cadougan came up with a steal and Johnson-Odom hit a 3-pointer to put the Golden Eagles up 44-38 with 11:07 to play.
The Golden Eagles stretched their lead to 56-46 when Johnson-Odom fired a long pass to Jamil Wilson for an easy layup with 4:56 left.
But the Pirates weren’t finished, as Freddie Wilson hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 58-53 with 3:25 remaining.
Trailing by four and facing a critical possession with just over 2 minutes left, the Pirates lost the ball out of bounds as the shot clock expired. Crowder hit two free throws to help put the game out of reach.
“We wanted this game,” said Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore, who had seven points on 3-for-14 shooting. “We just couldn’t make plays down the stretch, especially me. I just couldn’t get going at all tonight.”