After starting the season with consecutive 20-point plus victories, the Marquette Golden Eagles (2-0) look to keep rolling as they welcome the Grambling State (0-1) Tigers to the Bradley Center Saturday night.
With the limited action seen by both teams this early in the season, the biggest gauge of the matchup may come from their lone common opponent, the Centenary Gentlemen.
The Golden Eagles overpowered Centenary in their home opener, 85-62, behind Jimmy Butler's 27 points and 13 rebounds. Grambling State, however, was treated rudely by the Gentlemen, falling 71-66 at home.
But head coach Buzz Williams refuses to look at the Tigers as an easy win and cited a few key facets of their gameplan as causes for concern.
"Twenty-six percent of their points thus far have come from offensive rebounds," he said. "That scares me completely. They score 25 percent of their points in transition offense. Those two things we really have to key on."
Marquette should still have the advantage on the boards though, as Grambling starts only one player taller than 6'5". Their lone big man, 6-foot-9 George Akpeke, averages almost six rebounds and five points per contest.
Senior guard Ariece Perkins leads the Tigers offensively, averaging over 15 points and four assists per game. And sixth-man Donald Qualls provides a spark off the bench, putting up 13 points per game.
Butler currently paces Marquette in scoring, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. And Lazar Hayward isn't far behind, averaging 18.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds on the heels of a career-high 28-point performance against Maryland Eastern Shore.
Saturday's game will give Marquette a chance to see how 7'2" center Youssoupha Mbao will fit into their style of play. Mbao is coming off a two game suspension for a violation of NCAA amateurism rules.
"Yous has been doing a great job in practice," Maurice Acker said. "I feel as though his role will be coming in and giving us a spark off the bench by defending the big guys well and blocking shots."
Marquette's other center, Chris Otule continues to be a question mark for Marquette in the low post. The 6'10", 250-pound center has seen limited action so far this season, and he may need to see more consistent minutes for Marquette to rely on him during more physical late-season conference play.
And with the Old Spice Classic quickly approaching, Williams still has yet to find the best makeup of players on the floor.
"We've got to figure out what our rotation is going to be," he said. "I think we need to start sorting through that a little bit, and begin to have some distinct roles for our guys."
Marquette is 2-0 all-time against Grambling State, winning 105-74 in December of 2002 and 71-55 the following season. The tip is set for 7:30 PM CST.