Marquette Looks to Rebound

A North Dakota State team came into the Bradley Center looking to make a statement. Beating Princeton Friday night gave them a chance to do just that when they played Marquette for the Championship of the Blue and Gold Classic. Marquette scored first, but after a pair of free throws from tournament MVP Mike Nelson, the Bison grabbed the lead and never looked back.

A very good North Dakota State team came into the Bradley Center looking to make a statement.  Beating Princeton on Friday night gave them a chance to do just that when they played Marquette for the Championship of the Blue and Gold Classic.  Marquette scored first, but after a pair of free throws from tournament MVP, Mike Nelson, and a lay-up from Brett Winkelman, the Bison grabbed the lead and never looked back.

 

For Marquette head coach Tom Crean, the game came down to a battle of will and mental strength, two things the Golden Eagles just could not muster.

 

"Tonight, our weakness was our defensive intensity. Our defensive energy stared us straight in the face and we didn't answer us," said Crean. "They beat us fair and square in every facet of the game.  They were tougher. They had way more energy.

 

"Tonight they were the better team; there is no question," he added.

 

On the other side of the scorer's table, North Dakota State head coach Tom Miles, was extremely happy with the way his team played.

 

"It was fun I'll tell you that much," he said, to kick of his post game press conference. "We came here for one reason, and that was to win the tournament, not just to beat Princeton and play Marquette tough--it was to win the tournament," said Miles.

 

Miles stressed the importance of playing a high major team like Marquette and what his team can take form the experience, including the postseason feel of playing a Top 10 team.

 

"We don't get a March. We had to approach it like it was a March event for us.  This was kind of a statement night for us," said Miles.

 

*The Bison seemed to have an answer every time Marquette cut into their lead, and although they forced 25 NDSU turnovers, Marquette showed an inability to get a big stop when it counted.

 

 "We did a pretty good job turning them over, but I still don't think that we were as good defensively," said sophomore Jerel McNeal.  "We gave up too many open looks and too many open lay-ups, and in crunch time we didn't get stops like we needed to."

 

"Twenty five turnovers doesn't mean anything if you can't get the stops that you need to win," added sophomore Wes Matthews.

 

*Miles credited his team with answering the call when it counted.

 

"It was a team effort.  It was different guys at different times.  Luke Moorman hits a big shot, Mike Nelson hits a big shot, Andre Smith a couple times, Ben Woodside got fouled.  It was different guys responding in their own way," said Miles.

 

Crean also recognized the issue.

 

 "We've got to learn to make key stops.  We've had some trouble with that, but we've also had some real successes," said Crean.

 

*As Crean has stressed the entire season, he wants his team to continue to improve despite the loss. Crean specifically focused on team communication. He said this year's team group is the poorest communicating team he has coached in eight seasons at Marquette.

 

"Obviously there are a lot of things that we can improve upon.  It really starts with the communication aspect on the floor," said Crean.  "We're just a little inconsistent right now, but with a lot of games to go and lot of room for improvement."

 

The guards hope that losing a tough game at home makes them aware of the importance of putting together two solid halves of basketball every night.

 

 "More than anything we really have to take it as a wake up call for us," said McNeal.

 

"It gets us hungry again. We did not play to our ability tonight and we deserve this loss," said Matthews. "If you can take a positive out of this it snaps us back to reality again. "We're definitely going to learn from this and you're going to see a hungrier team on Tuesday."

 

**Eric Titze is a senior majoring in Political Science.


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