Dec. 21, 2010
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MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Junior college transfer Jae Crowder says he keeps learning each time he steps on the floor with his new team. Coach Buzz Williams says he's never had a newcomer acclimate faster to Marquette's style of play.
Crowder scored a season-high 22 points and Darius Johnson-Odom added 19 to lead Marquette to a 102-77 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday night.
"I think I'm in the right position to be the X-factor," Crowder said. "Every game I learn, I'm learning new things as I go on."
The Golden Eagles (9-3) shot 50 percent to cap a five-game homestand with another blowout win after losing to Wisconsin 10 days ago in the only major conference opponent in this part of the schedule.
Marquette's road gets much tougher now with a road game Dec. 29 at Vanderbilt before starting Big East play against West Virginia at home on Jan. 1.
"No more warm-up games, if that's the respectful way of saying it," Williams said. "I think we're going in the right direction."
They're going in that direction with Crowder, who has found a rhythm as he has been elevated into the starting lineup.
"He has acclimated quicker than any junior college player I've been around," Williams said. "And I've been around a bunch because I'm a former junior college manager. But I've never seen a kid as good as he is acclimate as quick as he has at this level.
"I've always viewed him as a starter even though I haven't necessarily started him. I do think he has earned the right to start, and I think our team functions better with him as a starter."
Paul Crosby and former Milwaukee high school star D'Angelo Jackson added 17 points each for Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils (1-10) are in a stretch of 14 road or neutral-site games to start the season.
Mississippi Valley started strong in the first meeting between the schools in 19 years by taking a 16-10 lead off Crosby's basket with 6:14 elapsed, but Marquette quickly turned up the pressure and began pulling away.
Crowder and Jimmy Butler, who finished with 17 points, sparked a 14-2 run that erased that six-point deficit and gave Marquette a 24-18 lead.
It started with defense. During a 7-minute stretch, the Devils managed just one field goal and committed four turnovers to squander the promising start.
"That kills us," Devils coach Sean Woods said. "That's what we've been doing, and we can't do that against a team like this -- any of the teams we've been playing. I'm trying my best to get these guys to just stay solid, but we find a way to give up runs."
Mississippi Valley is starting this season with 14 straight games on the road that also included stops at Georgia, Indiana, Saint Mary's, BYU, Butler, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky. Woods said Jackson would be a factor when Southwestern Athletic Conference play begins.
"D'Angelo is a guy that can score points," Woods said. "D'Angelo can be a big force for us once we get into conference."
But no one could match Crowder.
The NJCAA Player of the Year last season at Howard College took over on the offensive end, hitting three straight 3-pointers and scoring 12 in a row to give Marquette a comfortable double-digit advantage that stretched to 56-40 at the half. Crowder finished 8 of 15 from the field.
Outside of Wisconsin, Marquette has had its share of easy opponents.
The other teams in this five-game stretch came into play Tuesday 8-39. That has hurt Marquette in RPI rankings (180th out of 345) and strength of schedule (258th).
But the numbers will change, beginning with Vanderbilt and a daunting start to the conference slate.
"I feel comfortable right now, and I think it came at a great point going into Big East play and the Vanderbilt game,"
Crowder said. "I'm fine with my role in the offense as well. I feel pretty good."