Blue: Becoming the Go To Guy

MILWAUKEE – Vander Blue accounted for nearly half of Marquette's points during Monday night's victory over South Florida. With the final two months of the Golden Eagles' season still to come, the junior guard also has the chance to give Marquette fans something they have been looking for all year: A go-to scorer.

After losing Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, who accounted for about 47 percent of Marquette's offense last season, it was no secret that the Golden Eagles' offense was going to be in need of a leader this year.

Hoping to fill that void, Marquette brought in senior transfer Trent Lockett from Arizona State. In 87 games spanning three seasons at ASU, Lockett shot more than 50 percent from the field, scored over 11 points per game and was the team's leading scorer during his sophomore and junior campaigns. Unfortunately, Lockett's offensive prowess did not travel with him to Milwaukee, as he is only averaging 7.2 points per game this season and shooting about 38 percent from the field.

Many Marquette fans also expected Jamil Wilson to step into the spotlight this year, just as he did while both Chris Otule and Davante Gardner were injured last season. The six-foot-seven-inch junior showed his athleticism, length and versatility at both ends of the court in 2012, moving from swingman to center seamlessly. Since he handled the transition to a bigger role so well last year, many expected him to thrive in a starting role this year. However, fouls, turnovers and bad shooting contributed to Wilson losing his starting job to sophomore Juan Anderson. Although he has proven to still be effective coming off the bench, Wilson has been mostly underwhelming this year and is most certainly not the scorer fans were hoping to see.

One player who has come close to achieving go-to scorer status, especially late in games and during key moments, is point guard Junior Cadougan. Although he has only shot 21 percent from beyond the arc in his career, and he has never made more than nine three-pointers in a season, Cadougan was trusted with the final shot when the team was down by three against Connecticut. Of course, the senior came through in the clutch, just like he did against Wisconsin three weeks earlier and Providence three weeks later. On the other hand, Cadougan has only scored in double-digits eight times this season, while failing to put up five points six separate times. In short, Cadougan is a great leader during important stretches, but he is not a reliable scorer game in and game out.

The only players this season who have found consistent offensive success are Davante Gardner and Vander Blue. Both are averaging over 13 points per game, but their methods for racking up those points differ vastly. More than one-third of Gardner's points this year have come from the free throw line, as the six-foot-eight-inch, 290-pound junior is a burden in the low post. Conversely, only 20.6 percent of Blue's points were earned at the free throw line, but about 28 percent of his points have come from three-pointers. Also, Blue is a threat to drive, pull up or get out in transition, while Gardner does most of his work with his back to the basket.

To answer the question of who is the better go-to scorer, one really needs to look at only one stat: Minutes. It is tough for Gardner to be considered the team's number one scorer when he comes off the bench for only 22 minutes per game. Blue, on the other hand, plays more than 10 minutes more per game than Gardner, and has started almost every game since the beginning of last season.

The role of go-to scorer is Blue's to lose for the remainder of the year, as he has reached double figures in 14 of his 18 games this season, including each of the last nine games. Still don't agree? Consider this: With one career 30-point performance under his belt, Blue already has more 30-point games than Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder combined.

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