Lazar Hayward led the way for Marquette (4-0) chipping in 20 points and 8 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. Contributions from Darius Johnson-Odom (18 points), Jimmy Butler (13 points), and Maurice Acker (11 points) however, afforded Buzz Williams the luxury of resting Hayward for the majority of the second half while also allowing for several freshmen to see valuable minutes on the floor. Jeronne Maymon, Erik Williams, and Youssoupha Mbao were the ones most obviously affected as they seemed to develop more confidence as the half progressed.
The first half opened in a wave of three-point fury for the Golden Eagles. Butler got the action started from beyond the arc on Marquette's first possession and DJO and David Cubillan followed suit on subsequent possessions in route to the team's first nine points. For the half, MU shot 57.1 percent from downtown converting on 8 of 14 attempts.
Success attacking South Dakota's 2-3 zone was found by quickly getting the ball in and out of the high-post and around the perimeter. An immediate beneficiary of this ball-movement was Hayward. The senior was a man against boys at times, imposing his will in and around the paint in way to an 18 point, 8 rebound half. The Coyotes (2-3) however, managed to shoot above 50 percent from the field for most of the half and subsequently were able to stay within 13 points of the home squad by intermission, 48-35.
In the second half, Marquette continued to exploit the Coyotes zone through dribble penetration. The MU backcourt kept the defense off balance and got into the lane which led to good looks both down low and outside. MU stretched its lead all the way to 29 points at the 1:52 mark, however the highlight of the second period came a couple minutes prior when walk-on Robert Frozena hit a three from the left wing to send the jubilant home crowd into hysteria. Dwight Buycks, Cubillan, and DJO each dished out five assists and the Golden Eagles finished the game with 26 assists on 34 field goals.
"I think it may be the most unselfish team that I've ever been around," Williams said. "The four guys that handle the ball the most for us had 18 assists and three turnovers; our assist to turnover ratio has been outstanding."
Two of the more telling statistics on the evening for Marquette were their field goal percentage and forced turnovers. For the game, the Golden Eagles shot 50 percent from the field, 60 percent from beyond the arc, and turned South Dakota over 20 times. MU turned these takeaways into 21 points while at the same time managing to take care of the ball themselves, limiting their own giveaways to nine.
"We had more possessions on offense because we created more possessions from our defense," Williams said." I think anytime your defense turns into offense, you are typically going to shoot a higher percentage."
Just missing out on double figure performances were Cubillan and Maymon who each finished with nine points. Maymon added six rebounds and Cubillan was 3 of 4 beyond the arc.
Tuesday night's game was also noteworthy as it was the first time this season the Golden Eagles have been without the services of center Chris Otule. The sophomore suffered a season-ending broken foot Monday in practice and the team has been searching for ways to fill his void since.
"I think there were a lot of residual, positive effects that (Chris) gave our team, not just his stat line," said Williams. "It was the saddest that I've ever seen a team over a kid getting hurt. Per man, everyone in that room (yesterday) was crying because he had learned to work, embrace his work and everyone in our program could see how he was progressing."
South Dakota was led by Tyler Cain and Racine native Jake Thomas who finished with 19 and 12 points respectively.
Marquette returns to action on Thanksgiving Day in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Florida at 1pm CST against Xavier.