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March 2013 Archives

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By Chris Jenkins
Marquette Senior Writer
 
WASHINGTON -- Somebody forgot to tell Jamil Wilson that Marquette typically doesn't shoot like that from outside.
 
Wilson scored a team-high 16 points in Thursday night's monumental NCAA Sweet 16 victory over Miami, hitting 5 of 9 from the field and 3 of 4 from 3-point range. 
 
With those big shots, Wilson added a new dimension to a team not exactly known for 3-pointers. And this time, the Golden Eagles didn't even have to sweat it out in the final seconds.
 
"I think that it's great," Wilson said. "It's fantastic. It feels good not to have to worry about, are you going to lose on a last-second shot or are you going to win on a last-second shot, to have a cushion like that."
 
Already leading 29-16 at the half, Wilson helped Marquette keep the game under control in the first five minutes coming out of halftime. 
 
His jumper at the 17:22 mark made the score 34-19 -- and then he hit a critical 3-pointer in traffic a few minutes later, giving the Golden Eagles a 41-23 lead with 15:00 left in the game. Wilson was mobbed by teammates heading into a timeout, with Trent Lockett practically putting him in a headlock.
 
Miami tried to make a late run to erase a big deficit, but Marquette never seemed to be in serious danger of blowing the lead.
 
"These guys played with tremendous heart and we did it all game," Wilson said. "From start to finish we felt like we had to keep pushing, so we didn't let up and they would get back in the game. And as you saw in the last two minutes, they were knocking them down. And if we would have let up in the game, it could have easily gone the other way."
 
Wilson traced Marquette's tenacity back to the grueling "boot camp" that Buzz Williams uses to help players get ready for the season. 
 
"Boot camp is not really something you can explain in words," Wilson said. "But you can say a whole lot of shoes squeaking, a whole lot of yelling, some guys falling."
 
Added Vander Blue: "A lot of barfing."
 
Marquette played smart, too, as team-wide defensive communication and reaction allowed the Golden Eagles to keep a lid on the shooters Miami tried to free up with ball screens. The Golden Eagles held the Hurricanes to 6-for-29 shooting in the first half and 22-for-63 for the game.
 
Now comes an Elite Eight appearance on Saturday, Marquette's first since its 2003 Final Four run.
 
Williams traces to run back to Marquette's Big East tournament loss to Notre Dame, saying that "getting whipped" by the Irish "re-centered us emotionally" going into the NCAAs.
 
"I do think that we're playing pretty good," Williams said. "That doesn't mean we're going to win on Saturday, but to get to that point, obviously you have to play well."

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By Chris Jenkins
Marquette Senior Writer
 
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- At least for a few days in the hoops-crazed state of Kentucky, the phrase "Big Blue" suddenly had a new meaning.
 
After hitting perhaps the biggest shot so far in this year's NCAA tournament to lift Marquette past Davidson on Thursday, Marquette guard Vander Blue had perhaps the best game of his career in Saturday's victory over Butler.
 
Blue scored 29 points in the Golden Eagles' 74-72 victory, sending them to their third straight Sweet 16. And he provided a huge spark during critical stretches of the second half.
 
"I left it all out there," Blue said. "I went as hard as I can go. And even when I was tired, I was still trying to make plays for our team."
 
With Marquette trailing 58-54, Junior Cadougan hit a layup to cut the lead to two. Then Blue took over, as Jamil Wilson stole the ball and sent it ahead to Blue for a fast-break layup to tie the game.
 
Blue then came up with a steal of his own on Butler's next possession, racing away for an emphatic slam dunk to give Marquette the lead with 7:07 left.
 
He'd be needed again late, hitting a huge 3-pointer to tie the game with 1:25 remaining. The Golden Eagles' free throws, and effective defense on one last Butler inbounds play, sent them on to the next weekend of the tournament.
 
"We had two close games," Blue said. "We played in a lot of those games this year. I feel like what we've done earlier this season has prepared us for what we went through this past weekend. And it's a team effort, man, everybody just giving their all. Everybody just pushing each other, 'Let's get this one more stop and the game is not over.' Multiple times today we could have (given) up and lost the game. Just something about this group."
 
Butler coach Brad Stevens was impressed.
 
"He's had 50 in two games on us," Stevens said. "Pretty unique. Not many guys have gotten 50 against Butler in two games. You know, again, he made big shots, he made the huge 3 in the corner late. It was hard for me to see the one bounce up and essentially go in, because I knew a player like that when he sees that ball go in, that's as good as two makes."
 
Buzz Williams praised the play of Blue, but also went out of his way to point out the contributions of Derrick Wilson.
 
The sophomore combined with Cadougan to help slow down Butler star Rotnei Clarke in the second half. 
 
"I think Derrick Wilson is the reason we're still playing," Williams said. "That's just my opinion. I think the job that he's done defensively in the 29, 30 minutes that he's played since we've been at Kentucky have been phenomenal, and I think that he has changed the course of our team.  
 
"And I think the reason why Junior has played better in those two games is Derrick has played four to six minutes more than he typical does. That gives Junior a rest."
 
Clarke, best known to Marquette fans for hitting that game-winning shot in Maui, is a dangerous player who only needs a crack of daylight to get off a shot after he slips past a screen. He scored 18 points in the first half of Saturday's game.
 
Williams acknowledged that he was "brutal" to Cadougan in the halftime locker room, dressing him down in front of the team. Williams said he did so not to make a point to Cadougan, but to the rest of the team.
 
"Coach chewed me out in the locker room in front of the team because he knows I've been here, I've been through it, and he knows that once he chews me out, I accept it and build off of that," Cadougan said.
 
The Golden Eagles got a handle on Clark in the second half, holding him to six points the rest of the way.
 
Now comes a trip to Washington, D.C., as Marquette goes to its third straight Sweet 16.
 
"That's just another Marquette game," Williams said. "We're not good enough to blow anybody out. We're just good enough to get blown out. And if we can turn it into a fight and make it ugly, then it probably trends towards it helps us the most."

A Special Bond Between a Mother and Son

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By Chris Jenkins
Marquette Senior Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Stay in the moment. That's one of the biggest lessons life has taught Judy Lockett. 
 
So you'd better bet she was going to come see her son, Marquette guard Trent Lockett, play his first NCAA tournament game in person. Even if it meant driving 12 hours straight through from Minnesota, along with two friends. 
 
And did it ever pay off when the Golden Eagles beat Davidson on a last-second layup by Vander Blue, advancing to Saturday's matchup with Butler.
 
"Wow," she says. "That was ... something."
 
Trent Lockett's decision to transfer from Arizona State to Marquette has been perhaps the most compelling off-the-court storyline driving this year's Golden Eagles team. Trent came to Marquette because he wanted to be closer to Judy after she was diagnosed with cancer.
 
"It was so hard for him to decide," she says. "It was the toughest decision of his life. But now, when I see how much more time I get with him, and how nice it is to be able to sit and be with him as opposed to just talking to him on the phone, it's just been wonderful."
 
Judy attended Marquette's Big East home games this season, along with few others. She even went to the Maui Invitational because her brother lives in Hawaii.
 
What does Trent's decision to be closer to home say about him? 
 
"He's just an amazing young man," she says. "He's just awesome. I don't know what to say. Gracious, humble, thoughtful, hardworking, competitive. And a great son."
 
And while the reasons for Trent's move were based primarily on his family, it has worked out pretty well for him, too. He was able to play right away because he already had earned his undergraduate degree from ASU -- he's working on a master's -- and has become a key cog for Buzz Williams. 
 
"He has loved being on the team," she says. "This is the first time, really, in his career that he's had that kind of close team bonding that Buzz has created with the team."
 
And Trent isn't the only athlete in the family. Judy also has traveled to see her daughter, Taylor, a freshman on the volleyball team at Duquesne. 
 
"I'm just so grateful for my children," she says.
 
So where did they get their athleticism?
 
"I like to say that I've got the genes for it, but I was pre-Title IX so there were no girls athletics," she says. "And I grew up on a farm, so we just didn't do that."
 
And their father played football at St. Cloud State. He passed away when Trent was three years old.
 
"People just leave unexpectedly," Judy says. "You need to pay attention to the people that are here."
 
Asked about her health, Judy Lockett says she feels "really good." 
 
"I'm kind of defying the odds on the cancer, so that's really good news," she says.
 
What does the future hold?
 
"I don't know," she says. "I know what they say. But I'm thinking I'm going to live another 30 years."
 
But getting too wrapped up in what might happen in the future isn't the lesson the Lockett family has learned.
 
"Savor every moment and value your relationships," she says. "And to be in the moment, instead of in the future."

Memorable Moments Are Made In March

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By Chris Jenkins
Marquette Senior Writer
 
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- As Buzz Williams walked off the court after a thrilling last-second victory, a young fan reached down from the stands for a high five.
 
"I'm too tired to reach up!," Williams called out to the kid, with a smile. "Reach down."
 
After struggling through 38 energy-sapping minutes, everything suddenly turned beautiful for Marquette at the end. 
 
The Golden Eagles hit three 3-pointers in the final 1:03 and Vander Blue tossed in a running layup with a second left on the clock to dismiss a tough Davidson team 59-58 in the NCAA tournament on Thursday.
 
After a Davidson turnover, Blue got the inbounds pass and shot past defender Jake Cohen, finishing with a left-handed layup off the glass.
 
It was another big moment for Blue, who hit a last-second shot to beat St. John's on March 9 and help Marquette clinch a share of the Big East regular season title. 
 
This was even bigger.
 
"I'm not ready to go home," Blue said. "I know our team wasn't ready to go home."
 
At this point, the Golden Eagles are no strangers to close games.
 
"We've been in more one or two possession games, I would stay, than any BCS team in the country," Williams said. "And so it has helped me, it has helped our staff, it has helped our team."
 
Before their scoring burst in the final minute-plus, the Golden Eagles had made only one 3-pointer all game. They shot 34.5 percent from the field Thursday.
 
After quipping on Wednesday that his team "can't shoot," Williams made it clear after Thursday's game that he wasn't kidding.
 
"I don't think that we can shoot, and that wasn't me being sarcastic," Williams said. "I'm very transparent.  I think that we do a good job in late game execution.  Part of that is because we've been in so many of them and not just this year."
 
With shots simply not going down all game, Jamil Wilson said the Golden Eagles relied on their defense. 
 
"All year, we've kind of been a defense-predicated team," Wilson said. "Our defense dictates our offense.  Early in the game we're kind of stagnated. Our offense was lagging. Later in the game when things were turning bad, our back was in the wall, we went back to what we know, getting stops, taking the team out of what they wanted to do. And once our defense started to pick up, guys gained confidence."
 
Speaking of last-second shots, Marquette advances to face Butler on Saturday -- a team that beat the Golden Eagles with a last-second 3-pointer at the Maui Invitational in November. 
 
"We've been in games like this all year," Wilson said. "We've never denied the challenge.  So, let's just go through adversity as a team and know we can depend on each other yet again, and we're going to keep doing it and it's us to the end."
 
Said Blue: "If we do it get into another close ballgame with any other team, we'll know how to respond and handle it.  (It) can definitely help us that way.  But, at the same time, it just shows our team this is the NCAA Tournament and nothing is coming easy and if you want to win, you got to take it.  It's all about that."

Last Order of Business...

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By Chris Jenkins
Marquette Senior Writer
 
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With big headphones on his ears and a relaxed look on his face, guard Trent Lockett casually greeted a group of Marquette fans at the team hotel as he made his way to a team meeting.
 
"How are you guys doing?," he asked, exchanging high fives.
 
Lockett and the rest of the team had a quick, last-minute film session with coach Buzz Williams at the hotel before boarding the bus to nearby Rupp Arena about two hours before Thursday afternoon's NCAA tournament matchup with Davidson. 
 
They were seen off by an enthusiastic gathering of fans in the lobby, along with Marquette's band, cheerleaders and the Golden Eagle mascot. And if you think a college band might sound loud within the acoustic confines of a hotel lobby -- well, you'd be right.
 
Marquette President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., also was on hand to greet fans at a pregame reception, one day after he and Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Larry Williams represented Marquette at a news conference in New York to announce details of the reconfigured Big East. 
 
Should the Golden Eagles win Thursday, they could face new conference foe Butler on Saturday. Butler, Xavier and Creighton will join the "new" Big East next season.
 
The team's day started with a 10 a.m. shootaround at the arena, after which players and coaches headed back to the hotel for breakfast and additional preparation. Marquette was the only team playing in Lexington that elected to have a shootaround Thursday morning.
 
The Golden Eagles take on Davidson at 2:10 p.m. CDT on truTV. 

The 'Unspoken Value' of Experience

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By Chris Jenkins
Marquette Senior Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Juan Anderson might not be one of Marquette's marquee players yet, but Buzz Williams already has him ticketed for a long career in basketball.

Calling the sophomore forward "smarter than me," Williams believes Anderson has a future in coaching.

After the No. 3-seeded Golden Eagles landed in Lexington to prepare for Thursday afternoon's NCAA tournament matchup with No. 14-seeded Davidson (2:10 p.m. CT, truTV), Williams relayed a recent conversation with Anderson to make a larger point about the value of experience in the tournament.

"I said Juan, you're playing in your fourth NCAA game as a sophomore," Williams said. "He goes, 'Yeah.'

"I said, here's what I want you to learn: How many kids did you grow up that you played AAU with, that you played in high school with, that have been to an NCAA Tournament? Not played four games, played a minimum of four games as a sophomore?

"He goes, 'Coach, I don't know if any of my guys have been to the NCAA Tournament.'

"I said, here is the lesson when you become a coach: When you talk to kids and coaches and families and they go, 'Winning is really important, you do not have to discern when they say that.' They're either telling you the truth or they're lying completely."

Student-athletes who truly want to win, Williams says, choose schools that win consistently over schools that might have flashier names. Williams sees those kinds of players in his own program -- and on Davidson's roster.

"Those kids at Davidson, number 12, number 15, those guys when Coach (Bob) McKillop said, 'Hey, do you want to come here? We just went to the Elite Eight, you want to come? (Is) winning important to you?,'" Williams said. "I think it's very valuable."

Williams believes that experience pays off in ways that can't always be measured.

"We're one of six schools that over the last eight years have been to the NCAA tournament," Williams said. "Not necessarily that we've won or that we've lost or that we've advanced, but to get there says a lot. And if you probably studied it, you could find that the teams that do have the most success are the ones that have the most experience because that unspoken value of being in the tournament and having gone through media practice and all of those things, I think they're all very healthy for your growth and your maturity as an individual, collectively as a team, maybe most importantly as a program."

Despite Marquette's back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances and 2012-13 Big East regular season co-championship, Williams is well aware that some observers think the Golden Eagles are ripe for an upset Thursday.

Here's guessing he'll use that as motivation.

"Well, according to all the pundits -- I noticed that they're not in the audience now -- nobody has picked us to win," Williams said. "So it may be the 3, 14 Cinderella story."

Sarah Ball Becomes U.S. Citizen

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Ball, Sarah - U.S. Citizenby Cameron Tieuli

MILWAUKEE - Thursday, Feb. 21 was a special day for Marquette University women's track and field team member Sarah Ball, as the distance runner officially became a legal citizen of the United States. Ball, a 21 year-old junior, originally lived in Barton Mills, Suffolk, England for 13-and-a-half years before her father relocated their family to Wisconsin for a job opportunity.


"I've lived here almost as long as I lived there, and I plan on being here for the future, so it made sense for me to get it done now," Ball said. "It feels good."

In order to become a legal citizen, Ball had to go through various application processes and background checks, with one of the application processes taking six months. In November, she had to correctly pass a mini-exam of six questions pertaining to questions about the United States, her last step before she would be able to be sworn in by a judge in Milwaukee.

"I got six out of six, it was easy." Ball said with a smile.

Ball is the first person in her family to become a legal citizen in the U.S., but says her father and younger brother might be close behind as well. Ball, who currently is pursuing a degree in exercise physiology, went to Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wis. 


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