MU gets defensive on Bearcats

Marquette beat Cincinnati 84-50 thanks to a strong defensive effort and superb perimeter shooting. Jerel McNeal led the way with 26 points on 7-of-7 three-point shooting.

MILWAUKEE – When Buzz Williams was named the 16th head coach at Marquette University last April, questions remained on the style of play Williams, who had only one year of head coaching experience, would bring to the program. Williams declared himself a defensive minded coach who hoped to instill in his teams that principle above anything else.

Yet, entering their second Big East game of the 2008-2009 season, Marquette's scoring defense ranked just 12th in the conference. The team was allowing over 67 points per contest and allowed 80 points or more on three occasions.

So perhaps lost in the 34-point thumping of Cincinnati Sunday afternoon – amidst Jerel McNeal's 26-point explosion, Marquette's 60 percent three-point shooting, and the Golden Eagles' 84 total points – was a complete, lockdown defensive effort against a Bearcat offense averaging over 72 points a game.

Key to the effort was stopping Cincinnati's leading scorer, Deonta Vaughn, who came into the game averaging over 15 points a game.

The Golden Eagles held him scoreless for the first time in his career

"They did all the little stuff to take me out of the moments in the game," Vaughn said of the Golden Eagles' defensive effort. "There were times in the game where I just could not even get the ball."

The bulk of the credit goes to Marquette point guard Dominic James, who had the assignment of guarding Vaughn. Last season, Vaughn dumped 23 points on the Golden Eagles in a losing effort, and he still finished Sunday's contest with 10 assists.

"I think Vaughn is one of the top three of four guards in the league, and I would count our guards in that mix," said Williams. "To hold a guy like that to an ‘0-fer' is incredible."

Williams also pointed out how difficult it was for James to still run the team on offense with such a difficult defensive assignment. James was able to contribute nine points while distributing four assists and not committing a turnover.

Other Golden Eagles picked things up on offense, most notably McNeal, who shot 7-of-7 from three and 9-of-10 overall.

Challenges remain on the defensive end for Marquette, who will continue to play an undersized line-up against some of the best big men the Big East has to offer. But if Sunday afternoon's defensive effort is any indication of things to come, Buzz Williams should be pleased that his April vision may become and January reality.

Andrew Sharos is the former head student writer of MarquetteHoops.com. He is currently a history teacher at West Leyden (Northlake, Ill.) High School.


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