Norfolk St.-Marquette Preview
By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- Marquette's defense was a weakness on a team that reached the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament last season, so coach Buzz Williams can be forgiven for looking for ways to improve his team defensively even after a 54-point win.
The 21st-ranked Golden Eagles will try to improve on their largest margin of victory in 15 years when they host Norfolk State on Monday night.
Marquette opened the season with a 91-37 victory over Mount St. Mary's on Friday, its biggest win since a 104-49 victory over Prairie View A&M on Dec. 6, 1996.
While the Golden Eagles held the Mountaineers to 29.1 percent shooting and forced 29 turnovers, they gave up 16 offensive rebounds.
"They only had six scholarship guys, so who we prepared to play was not exactly who we played," Williams said. "That incriminates us even more, with 16 offensive rebounds (given up). But to force a team into 29 turnovers and to hold them to the field goal percentage that we did, all of those things were very positive."
Marquette is expected to be an improved defensive team after last season's squad ranked 14th in the Big East in points allowed (68.8 per game) and field-goal percentage (43.8). Much of the increased expectations stem from experience in the frontcourt with Jae Crowder, who had six rebounds and four steals Friday, and 6-foot-11 Chris Otule, who had three blocked shots and five rebounds.
However, Otule also saw room for improvement.
"We were up and down," Otule said. "I think there were times when we relaxed a little bit."
Marquette is counting on the pair to not only be a presence on defense, but be more consistent on offense. Crowder, who averaged 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 37 games - 17 starts - last season, often dealt with foul trouble.
They'll look to help Darius Johnson-Odom, the team's top returning scorer who had 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting Friday. Johnson-Odom has been Marquette's top outside shooting threat with at least 71 3-pointers in each of the last two seasons.
Marquette will be without freshman Juan Anderson for another two games after he was suspended Friday for accepting a free ticket to a Milwaukee Brewers playoff game. He also missed the opener.
The Golden Eagles don't figure to have a difficult time against Norfolk State, which returns two starters from last season's 12-20 team.
Marquette will want to contain Kyle O'Quinn, one of the Mid-Eastern Conference's top returning players. He averaged 16.4 points and 11.1 rebounds last season, while Chris McEachin averaged 10.3 points in 18 games, having to sit out the first semester due to transfer rules.
The Spartans are 0-8 against Top 25 teams, losing by an average of 23.1 points. This is their first game against a ranked opponent since losing 70-47 to No. 24 Air Force in 2006.
This is the first matchup between the schools, who are meeting as part of the Paradise Jam.
Updated November 14, 2011