"Coach has really been on me to step it up," said Barro of his performance. "He really wants me to be a stopper on defense and take my game to a new level."
"When Ouse (Barro) plays like this, his energy flows through the team," added James.
Barro stepped up from the beginning, scoring four of MU's first six points during an 11-0 run to start the game. Barro established the paint early for the Golden Eagles, leading MU to a 26-13 rebounding edge at halftime and a 56-28 margin to finish the game.
"Incredible," remarked Matthews on the performance of Barro. "Back to back double doubles for him--we are getting him the ball in positions for him to do things." When asked where the breakout performance from Barro came from, Matthews responded, "I do not know, but I like it."
Northwestern State (4-3) closed the lead to 36-32 by halftime, but could not withstand the second half blitz by the Golden Eagles. This time, Marquette opened the half with a 14-0 run highlighted by three Jerel McNeal lay-ups and a pair of jumpers from Dominic James. The Golden Eagles built a lead as large as 19 points and never let it go.
"We would like to have runs like that more often," said Tom Crean of his team's jumpstarts to both halves. "We are at our best when we let our defense control our offense and set our offense tone."
Barro became the first Marquette big man to score twenty points in a game since the Steve Novak era. His strong performance elevated his season average to almost nine points per contest and eight boards per game, a far cry from his numbers from sophomore year. Crean credited Ousmane for his continued hard work during practice and reiterated that Ousmane is still scratching the surface with his potential.
"He can continue to get better," added Crean. "Over time, Ousmane has changed the way he sees himself; he now sees himself as producer and not just a player."
Marquette will play North Dakota State, victorious over Princeton 57-50 earlier, at 8PM Saturday night for the tournament championship. Marquette lost the Pepsi Blue and Gold Classic last season to Winthrop.
**Pat Barry is a senior majoring in Accounting. Andrew Sharos is the Head Student Writer for MarquetteHoops.com and is a senior majoring in History and Secondary Education.