The Golden Eagles return to the floor on Saturday after a long week of finals to take on the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons. No. 24/24 Marquette (7-1) comes into the game off of their biggest win of the season, a 71-68 triumph over Wisconsin in front of sold out Bradley Center last Saturday.
IPFW (4-5) traveled to Milwaukee last year and received a 80-56 steamrolling at the hands of MU. The Mastodons are a considerably different team this year. They graduated seven seniors, including three starters, from a team that went 13-18.
IPFW's two returning starters have arguably been their two best players this season. David Carson, a 6'7" senior out of Gary, Ind. leads the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game, to go along with a solid 5.4 rebounds per game. Ben Botts, a 6'0" sophomore handling the off guard duties, is averaging 11.7 a game and leads the team in three-pointers with 16.
Nevertheless, Marquette faces the challenge of coming off a very emotional game against Wisconsin and will try to avoid a let down. Head coach Buzz Williams is proud of the big win over UW, but knows they have to move on.
"I'm glad that we beat Wisconsin. That's a big win for our program," he said Thursday. "But that's over now. And the good players… they move on. And the one's that want to sit back and bask in their glory, they're typically the ones that get punched in the mouth a little more often than the others."
All indications however seem to be pointing to another strong outing. Jerel McNeal was named Big East player of the week for his performances against Central Michigan and Wisconsin – games in which the Chicago native averaged 20.0 points and 5.5 rebounds. Defensively, no one was better than Dwight Burke last Saturday. He held Badger power forward Marcus Landry to just five points, and 2-5 shooting from the floor. Landry was averaging a solid 13.3 coming into the game.
Burke explained that everyone is beginning to embrace their roles on the team, and as a result, they are playing well. "Everybody is fitting in, starting to pick their roles up, and starting to do what they need to do when they get in the game. It's coming together real nice."
With Tuesday night's big match-up with No. 8/8 Tennessee on the horizon, the Golden Eagles want to carry all the momentum they can into Nashville. "I don't want to take another loss. I don't think this team wants to take another loss," stated sophomore Jimmy Butler. "If we execute the way we are supposed to execute, I think everything else will handle itself."
Tip off is set for 1:00 pm, with the game being televised on Channel 32 in Milwaukee, Time Warner Sports.