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Watching the Marquette Golden Eagles frequently reminds you of a hard-nosed, gritty fighter who never goes to his knees on the canvas.  He may appear punch drunk at times, but when backed in the corner, he may throw that hard left or right hook that may knock games out the best of opponents.

Such was the case for the Golden Eagles in their opening duo of Big East games which included a 69-66 win over UConn and an even more physically punctuated 49-48 victory vs. Georgetown on Saturday.  Marquette has played every possession and has out played two teams that on paper, may have been favorites.

Credit: Marquette Athletics and Maggie Casey

Marquette basketball coach Buzz Williams never lets his Golden Eagles fall off the college basketball radar through work ethic and focus.(Credit: Marquette Athletics and Maggie Casey)

On New Year’s Eve, Junior Cadougan hit a game-tying buzzer beating three-point field goal to push the 82-76 win over UConn into overtime.  The Golden Eagles did not score for the last 3:38 of regulation until Cadougan’s heroics.  Luckily, the defensive stops and rebounding kept Marquette in position.

Saturday, it was Davante Gardner who made two free throws while the Golden Eagles waited on a missed Georgetown free throw for their 11th straight victory, 49-48, in the Bradley Center.

When the season began, Marquette was restructuring it’s roster with the loss of leading scorers Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, who worked on their games immeasurably to be able to make NBA rosters at the beginning of the season.  Now, coach Buzz Williams has five players averaging between 7.4 ppg. and Vander Blue’s 13.2 ppg. as ten Golden Eagles have averaged double figures in minutes in Marquette’s 11-3 start.

“You have to play every second of every possession really hard,” said Williams of his team’s work ethic in the restructuring, “To be honest with you, that’s who we have been and some of those guys have turned into NBA players and were not initially.  The only chance we have is to play like we are about to be pushed off a cliff.  Each possession is so monumental.”

Then Williams espoused a creative extended metaphor as he has always been known to wax literary.

“If you grow up in a shot gun house and eat Hamburger Helper all your life, but what happens is you work so hard to get out of the shot gun house, that when you get to a nice house its easy to forget how you got there,” said Williams in comparing this team’s priorities, “You forget the journey and that’s what it is about. You can’t skip a step and if you live off your inheritance , you’re gonna go broke  We have been superlative in what we have accomplished.  We don’t live in those houses any more. We have to build our own.”

Marquette’s workmanship has been seen on the glass as the Golden Eagles have out-rebounded their opposition by five per game.  They held a 41-31 advantage on the boards in the win over UConn and 35-26 in the win over the Hoyas, two teams that are always near the top of the league in boards production.

“If I only have one answer, I’d say on the glass because we really strong presence on both ends,” said Williams, of the Golden Eagles’ effort vs. Georgetown, “They present so many situations that you don’t typically have.  Their offense is unique and you have to have a delicate balance on how to stop their offense but you can’t become so consumerd in what they do that you are not diligent in how to score against them through your offense.”

This team, though, is about paying attention to fundamentals and game-planning as well.  It is an intelligent group that relishes the challenge and the opportunity to execute every game plan that Williams and his staff orchestrate.  Watching them play, you see a group of unselfish young men who believe in Williams’ system and philosophy.

“They scored one basket off everything we prepared our guys for,” noted WIlliams, “We have certain ways to how we prepare an opponent,  specific to film and timing.  We have Georgetown absolutes that are unique because of how we play.  Of the eight games we have played Georgetown, I thought our guays ability to absorb, understand, communicate, and execute is as good as it has even been.”

This Marquette team is about who will step up in what situation as the metaphor of the prize fighter fits, but the metaphor comparing the team to it’s outstanding coach in Buzz Williams may fit even better.

“Man, you gotta be hungry and you have to tighten your sphere,” analyzed Williams of the nature of team’s focus, “Twitter, Facebook, and you have to tighten it when you are building your house. True confidence can come from yourself when you build your house.”

- Ken Cross

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