With a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line, Marquette players are staying focused on the task at hand and the only fun they are worrying about is winning.
"We don't change up too much right now," said senior forward Jae Crowder. "We just keep it simple. You really don't want to have too much fun because we all know this is a business trip. We look at it as a business trip. We really want to make a run for it and not try to have too much fun other than winning."
The serious attitude has shown throughout the Golden Eagles stay in Louisville as they prepared, practice and thoroughly defeated BYU on Thursday. They hope to replicate the results on Saturday against a one-loss Murray State squad in what is essentially a road game.
Murray State, located about four and a half hours from Louisville, had a good contingent of fans at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday and with in-state Kentucky also playing in Louisville, it is expected that many UK fans will pull for the ‘little guys'.
"We do have a lot of people coming to the game," said Racer guard Jewuan Long. "A lot of [Murray State] blue and gold will be in the building. And even the UK fans, they've given us a lot of support as well."
Even with much of the crowd expected to be rooting against the Golden Eagles, Crowder said he doesn't feel like the ‘bad guy' in Louisville. Crowder said MU would approach the game any other road game.
"They do have a lot of fans here," acknowledged Crowder. "That's expected. We'll face it like another road game for us. It's just the NCAA Tournament"
While the fans impact on the game is unknown, what is known, is that Murray State and Marquette like to play a similar style of basketball. Both teams like to get up-and-down the court in transition and both teams like to play tough defense, forcing the opponent into turnovers.
The players for each team were quick to point out the similarities in style and in roster composition.
"Murray State is similar to us," said Johnson-Odom. Their low post guys are just like ours, very athletic, very versatile in what they do, whether it's scoring on the perimeter or scoring on the low block"
"Their style of play is pretty similar," said Murray State reserve guard Jaylen Bland. "We are both known as tough teams and defensive teams that get after it on the defensive end. They are going to press us and we have to take care of the ball. We have to be fundamentally sound. And we are going to pressure too—that is always us."
Playing a team so similar to themselves, the Golden Eagles believe they might be better prepared because they can practice against what they are going to face.
"I think it kind of makes it easier for us," said Johnson-Odom. "But at the same time, we have to still do the things we've been doing. We can't change just because we're playing a similar team. If we stick to that, I think we have a pretty good chance."
One of the challenges the coaching staff faces in playing a 31-1 team like Murray State, is that there is not much tape of what it takes to beat them. Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams addressed the issue today.
"I think what you see is a lot of the rhythm and route to how they have won when you watch a team that's had that much success," said Williams. "So I think probably, when you play a team that's had the success that they have, you just get a better feel for this is why they've had the level of success that they've had."
Much of Murray State's success has come at the hands of Isaiah Canaan. Canaan, a six-foot junior guard, leads the Racers in scoring at just over 19 points a game. He also averages over three rebounds, 3 assists and a steal per game. Much more impressive than his per game averages is the efficiency in which he does it.
"No. 3 [Canaan] shoots 47 percent from three, and that's the worst he's been in his career," said Williams. "There's very few guys in the country that shoot that kind of field goal percentage, particularly from three."
Williams also likened Canaan's game to a few former Golden Eagle opponents: Scottie Reynolds and Tu Holloway.
"I think [Canaan} is very Scottie Reynolds like in his ability to create space [and] his ability to finish with either hand in the paint. Tu Holloway was involved in 55 percent of [Xavier's] ball screens. Murray State sets just as many ball screens as Xavier does and Isaiah Canaan is involved in 51 percent of their ball screens."
Murray State is far from a one-man team, however as several other players are capable of putting up points. Backcourt teammates of Canaan, Donte Poole and Jewuan Long, provide senior leadership and scoring ability. Poole pours in over 14 points per game and hits 39 percent of his three point attempts. Meanwhile, Long scores 8.5 points per game and knocks down 44 percent of his shots from downtown.
In the frontcourt, the Racers have a pair of six-foot-seven forwards that do much of the dirty work in the paint. Ivan Aska scores in double figures (10.7 ppg) while providing muscle around the hoop. Ed Daniel, perhaps best known for his Ben Wallace-style afro, scores just under seven points per game while hitting 58 percent of his field goal attempts.
Murray State usually goes eight or nine guys deep in the rotation but much of their production comes from their starting lineup.
With both teams looking to get out and run, expect both teams to try and make a statement early. It will be crucial for the Golden Eagles not to fall behind too early because the crowd will make it difficult for them to get back in the game.
If Marquette can weather the offensive storm from the Racers and maintain composure during their runs, the Golden Eagles will head to Phoenix for their second straight Sweet 16 appearance.
Murray State Racers Projected Starters
•#3—Isaiah Canaan—Guard—(6-0, 193, JR)—19.1 pts, 3.4 reb, 3.7 ast, 1.3 stl, 48% FG, 46% 3PT, 84% FT
•#11—Donte Poole—Guard—(6-3, 190, SR)—14.2 pts, 3.6 reb, 1.5 ast, 2.0 stl, 45% FG, 39% 3PT, 86% FT
•#33—Jewuan Long—Guard—(6-1, 180, SR)—8.5 pts, 3.0 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.2 stl, 49% FG, 44% 3PT, 84% FT
•#2—Ed Daniel—Forward—(6-7, 220, JR)—6.8 pts, 5.3 reb, 0.9 ast, 1.5 blk, 58% FG, 50% 3PT, 60% FT
•#42—Ivan Aska—Forward—(6-7, 230, SR)—10.7 pts, 5.8 reb, 0.5 ast, 0.5 blk, 49% FG, 40% 3PT, 84% FT
Off the Bench:
•#10—Zay Jackson—Guard—(6-0, 175, FR)—4.9 pts, 2.1 reb, 2.3 ast, 1.0 stl, 39% FG, 26% 3PT, 65 % FT
•#1—Stacy Wilson—Forward—(6-3, 185, JR)—4.4 pts, 0.9 reb, 0.5 ast, 0.6 stl, 49% FG, 39% 3PT, 56% FT
•#4—Latreze Mushatt—Guard—(6-5, 210, JR)—4.3 pts, 4.9 reb, 0.8 ast, 0.7 stl, 49% FG, 42% 3PT, 47% FT
•#13—Brandon Garrett—Forward—(6-9, 205, JR)—2.3 pts, 2.1 reb, 0.1 ast, 0.6 blk, 45% FG, 55% FT
•#32—Jaylen Bland—Guard—(6-2, 202, FR)—1.7 pts, 1.3 reb, 0.2 ast, 0.2 bpg, 42% FG, 10% 3PT, 33% FT
Marquette Golden Eagles Projected Starters
•#5—Junior Cadougan—Guard—(6-1, 205, JR)—6.4 pts, 2.1 reb, 5.4 ast, 1.2 stl, 39% FG, 25% 3PT, 70% FT
•#1—Darius Johnson-Odom—Guard—(6-2, 215, SR)—18.5 pts, 3.5 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.0 stl, 45% FG, 40% 3PT, 77% FT
•#2—Vander Blue—Guard—(6-4 200, SO)—8.6 pts, 4.4 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.2 stl, 43% FG, 26% 3PT, 70% FT
•#32—Jae Crowder—Forward—(6-6, 235, SR)—17.6 pts, 8.3 reb, 2.1 ast, 2.5 stl, 1.0 blk, 51% FG, 36% 3PT, 74% FT
•#0—Jamil Wilson—Forward—(6-7, 220, SO)—7.3 pts, 4.0 reb, 1.2 ast, 1.3 blk, 46% FG, 33% 3PT, 71% FT
Off the Bench:
•#4—Todd Mayo—Guard—(6-3 190, FR)—7.8 pts, 2.6 reb, 1.2 ast, 0.5 stl, 42% FG, 31% 3PT, 76% FT
•#54—Davante Gardner—Forward—(6-8, 290, SO)—9.7 pts, 5.5 reb, 0.8 ast, 0.8 stl, 58% FG, 75% FT
•#33—Derrick Wilson—Guard—(6-1, 215, FR)—0.6 pts, 1.2 reb, 0.8 ast, 0.6 stl, 38% FG, 47% FT
•#22—Jamail Jones—Guard/Forward—(6-6, 210, SO)—1.6 pts, 1.3 reb, 0.4 ast, 0.3 stl, 35% FG, 21% 3PT, 20% FT
•#33—Juan Anderson—Guard—(6-6, 210, FR)—0.7 pts, 0.9 reb, 0.2 ast, 0.2 stl, 39% FG, 67% FT
Preview: Murray State
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