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Game Recap: Marquette 63, Southern 56

The Golden Eagles began their Big East championship defense with a 63-56 victory over last season's SWAC tournament championship

Mike McGinnis

On the night that Marquette unveiled its 2013 Big East championship banner, the Golden Eagles took care of a game Southern University squad 63-56 Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

Marquette never trailed in the game, but the Jaguars kept the game close throughout. After Marquette led 38-32 at halftime, Southern used an early second half 9-1 run to close the gap to four at 47-43. Marquette then jumped ahead 58-44 for its largest lead of the contest, and held on to win by seven, after failing to convert a field goal for the final 8:25.

The Golden Eagles pounded the rock inside methodically all night. Davante Gardner was a foul drawing machine, with 25 points on 15-for-20 shooting from the free-throw line. As a result, Southern committed 34 team fouls to Marquette’s 19 and five Jaguars had at least four fouls.

Todd Mayo played perhaps his best game in a Marquette uniform, adding 20 points of his own on 5-for-8 shooting and 8-for-11 on free throws. He also pulled down five rebounds. He was the lone bright spot in a brutal second half for the Golden Eagles. They shot 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) from the field and 18-for-32 from the line in the second 20 minutes. Mayo chipped in 13 points and was the only Marquette player to make a field goal in the second frame.

While Southern proved a game challenge, Marquette hardly gave its best effort. Three players (Gardner, Mayo and Jamil Wilson) scored in double-figures, but the rest of the team combined for just eight points total. Adding to the alarming lack of balance was MU’s poor three-point shooting, at a 4-for-13 clip.

A real concern for the Golden Eagles, especially in the second half, was free throw shooting. Marquette shot a terrible 33-for-53 (62.3 percent) from the charity stripe. Chris Otule went just 2-for-8, point guard Derrick Wilson shot 1-for-4 and even Gardner missed five free throws.

Speaking of Derrick Wilson, the guard struggled in his first game as the team’s starting point guard. While he played a team-high 34 minutes and some stellar perimeter defense, he failed to attempt a shot. Wilson will need to develop some sort of scoring edge for Marquette to be effective.

Marquette succeeded in neutralizing preseason SWAC player of the year Malcolm Miller in the second half. Miller torched MU in the first half with four three-pointers, but didn’t score a point in half number two. Miller only played 24 minutes while he coped with cramps.

The Golden Eagles had three freshmen make debuts against Southern. The most unheralded of their 2013 recruiting class, New Mexico’s John Dawson, played first of the newcomers in relief of Derrick Wilson. He scored a point in six minutes of play. The two other healthy freshmen, JaJuan Johnson and Deonte Burton, played a combined 24 minutes and totaled two points on a basket by Burton. The other freshman, Duane Wilson, sat out in street clothes because of a leg injury.

Marquette deployed an unusual starting lineup Friday. Derrick Wilson, Jamil Wilson and Otule were expected to start, but Steve Taylor and Jake Thomas were surprises. Neither of the two shock starters made a field goal.

The Golden Eagles next host Southern’s SWAC football rival Grambling State on Tuesday in Milwaukee.