After finishing runner-up the past three years in preseason tournaments, the Marquette Golden Eagles will try to capture a championship at the 2011 Paradise Jam.
MU will look to take the first step on Friday night as they play Winthrop at 7:30 PM CT at the University of the Virgin Islands' Sports and Fitness Center.
The Golden Eagles have come out to a ferocious pace in the first two games of the season scoring 99 and 95 points respectively. For Winthrop, it has been quite the opposite as they have scored 58 and 49 points in their first two contests.
Leading the way for Winthrop are six-foot-two senior Andre Jones and six-foot-one senior Reggie Middleton. Jones leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game and also chips in on the defensive end with 1.5 steals per game. Middleton averages 12.0 a game to form the Eagle backcourt.
Fellow senior Matt Morgan anchors the inside for Winthrop. The six-foot-nine center averages 7.5 points per game and is tied for the team lead in field goal percentage. His frontcourt mate George Valentine is tied for the team in rebounding at 5.5 per game and also chips in 7 points on the offensive end.
The final starter for the Eagles is six-foot-five wing Joab Jerome. Jerome has made is presence felt in different facets of the game, as he is tied for the team lead in rebounding (5.5/game) and leads the teams in assists per game at 3.0.
Through the first two games, Winthrop has had three players off the bench average double-digit minutes. Freshman guard Andre Smith leads the bunch with 7.0 points per game. He has been a sharpshooter thus far, connecting on a pair of threes in the first couple games. Joining him is fellow freshman James Bourne and junior Shola Diop.
The key for Marquette seems to be on the defensive end, as they have not had much trouble scoring the ball thus far. If they are able to keep Winthrop at or even near their 38 percent season average on field goals, they shouldn't have trouble. However, if they let the guards get hot from downtown like Norfolk State was able to, things could get interesting.
Look for MU to try and jump out to an early lead by pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers. It has been their bread-and-butter thus far (they are third in the nation at forcing turnovers) and it has lead to many easy baskets on the other end.
Also expect to see a similar substitution pattern from Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams where all 10 guys see a fair amount of minutes. With the tournament atmosphere, I would suspect he wants to rest his starters as much as he can, when he can because the final two games are expected to be more difficult.
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