Taking a Look at Marqette's Trip to Canada

Elsinore Beer, back bacon and toques, not what the Marquette Golden Eagles went to Canada for as they took off to the Great White North to gear up for the upcoming season. The Golden Eagles were able to take freshman Scott Christopherson and Patrick Hazel along, giving them much needed experience.

Elsinore Beer, back bacon and toques, not what the Marquette Golden Eagles came to Canada for as they took off to the Great White North to gear up for the upcoming season. Taking advantage of an NCAA rule allowing foreign tours during a university designated break, the Eagles were able to take freshman Scott Christopherson and Patrick Hazel with them on the trip, giving them much needed experience.

In the first game, MU took on the Moult Athletic All-Stars, a team made up of majority former Canadian college players with a few American D2, D3 and JUCO players rounding out the roster. Moult jumped out to a 14-7 lead as MU was plagued by turnover issues. The scoring for MU was provided by Wes Matthews who hit his first 2 3 point attempts and then made 1 of 2 free throws but turnovers by Jerel McNeal and Dominic James allowed Moult to keep the lead. While the offense wasn't clicking to start, the defense was picking up as Dan Fitzgerald was everywhere on the floor getting steals and deflections that allowed MU to get transition points. Lazar Hayward provided a spark by hitting a 3 pointer and then subsequently hustling back for a very impressive block on a Moult break. After the block, James took advantage of a 2 on 1 with a feed to Ousmane Barrow for a big jam to give MU a 20-19 lead, which was extended to 22-19 after a James baseline drive off a pump fake. The Eagles attempted to finish the quarter with a bang, but an ally-oop attempt to Lawrence Blackledge was tipped by the Moult defenders. MU came out smoking in the 2nd quarter, extending the lead to 29-21, however more turnovers and transition points by Moult allowed Moult to cut the halftime deficit to 47-22.

The 2nd half saw a shift in defensive strategy for MU as Coach Crean began switching defenses to confuse Moult. Midway through the 3rd MU switched into a 1-2-2 half court trap with Wes Matthews, who was playing excellent 1-on-1 defense all game, meeting the PG at the center court stripe. The result of the trap was 4 straight turnovers and transition buckets, extending MU's lead to 65-51 and earning strong praise from Crean on the sidelines. After substitutions, MU showed a 1-3-1 into a 2-3 zone on 3 possessions which only allowed 1 basket. The quarter was finished off with Dwight Burke not only going 2 for 2 from the line but not even moving the net on his shots. Moult's frustration with MU's swarming defense resulted in a technical foul out of frustration from Moult's PG, who was sporting a quarter sized bump over his left eye. In the forth quarter Moult switched to zone which quickly was broken by a Fitzgerald 3 and multiple aggressive drives by Matthews. MU went back to the 1-3-1, resulting in 2 shot clock violations by Moult. Freshman Scott Christopherson got into the act by hitting a 3 off an inbounds pass and getting a put-back lay-up off a miss late in the 4th quarter. Final score, MU wins 107-91.

On Sunday MU took on the Douglas College Royals, who may have the greatest recruiting advantage anywhere in having a Peeler Bar right across the street from the gym, advertising the top pole dancer in Canada. Walking into the gym one could not help but notice the many banners ringing the court, celebrating Douglas's dominance in Badminton. Glad we didn't challenge them to that! Also noticeable were 2 banners for BCCAA basketball championships, including one for the past season. A gift exchange kicked off the game, with MU players giving Douglas players a MU cap and MU basketball DVD and getting in return a Douglas College bouncy ball. The players must not have liked their gifts as they immediately jumped out to a 20-2 lead with many points off of transition with James leading the break and finding the open man, including Fitzgerald with a pretty 3. After substitutions MU kept up the swarming defense with Fitzgerald picking up where he left off on Saturday being all over the floor and getting multiple steals. The quarter ended with MU up 22-7 and Douglas only getting off 4 shots that hit rim. In the 2nd quarter MU kept up the stifling defense, switching into a ¾ court trap and on offense Hayward hitting 2 straight 3's. However, MU's aggressiveness must have been an odd sight to the Canadian officials as those hosers called 7 fouls on MU before calling one on Douglas. MU overcame the refs by creating more turnovers with the highlight of the quarter being a ¾ court pass from Jerel McNeal to Dominic James for a lay-up and multiple passes by DJ on the break, helping MU to take a 47-24 lead at the half. MU came out sluggish in the 2nd half, missing 3 "no footers". Crean implemented a 1-3-1 full court trap off misses, which created a turnover which MU converted into a James jam, drawing oohs and ahhs from the crowd of about 200. MU seemed to coast a bit in the 3rd, finishing with a 68-49 lead. The most impressive player was James, who after his jam made 3 straight lay-ups from the right side off shot fakes and drives. James continued his strong play in the 4th continuing to forego 3 point attempts for penetration. A further highlight was 2 very strong, nasty moves by Barro in the post. Lining up on the right middle post, Barro got the ball in the lane, put the ball on the floor, spun and hit 2 lefty lay-ups. With a 29 point lead and the game in hand, MU's bench got plenty of run, allowing Douglas to cut into the lead, led by star freshman Bol Kang who had 7 straight points off 2 3's and a penetration jam. MU ended the game with consecutive 3's from Mo Acker and David Cubillian to win 92-70.

Most impressive was the hustle of Dan Fitzgerald, who seemed to be everywhere on the floor on defense, Wes Matthews who showed a new aggressiveness on the offensive end and played very strong man-to-man defense and Dominic James who looked to pass and penetrate and was very effective in doing both. MU's defensive intensity was as high as ever with Crean's switching of defenses confusing the Douglas players and resulting in turnovers and points in transition. One thing that was very apparent was that MU is looking to run off both misses and makes with quick inbounds passes off any make. The opening line-up in the Douglas game of James, McNeal, Matthews, Fitzgerald and Hayward were able to run Douglas right off the floor. Free throws were improved for the most part, particularly Burke and James. However, the 4th quarter of the Douglas game resulted in many misses from the charity stripe.

All in all this was an excellent trip for MU. The chance to get an additional 10 practices in and integrate the freshmen, sans Mbakwe, into game situations against good competition will pay dividends at the start of the season and gave the Eagles a chance to see one of the most beautiful cities in North America.


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