Marquette vs. UW-Whitewater: Last Stop Before the Blue & Gold Classic
Lots of action tonight as Wisconsin, Marquette, and UW-Green Bay were in action. Green Bay’s battle with Washington was pretty much totally inaccessible, and Wisconsin and Marquette both were untelevised, so I needed to actually attend a game tonight in order to get my fix. Wisconsin vs. Lawrence was alluring, as Lawrence has been a solid team over the last few years, but Madison’s still a long drive for me on a weeknight. Plus, Lawrence was so much less athletic than UWM last year in its first foray into the world of exhibition games, that I had some idea of what the outcome would be. And it’s not a huge step down to stay in Milwaukee when Marquette’s around and they’re playing a Whitewater team with lots of name players. Plus, my numerous Whitewater alum friends would likely be angry with me if I didn’t take the opportunity to write something about their team. So this breakdown’s for you, fellas. Enjoy:
1) My friend Gus and I bought our tickets from a scalper tonight. It’s a much easier thing to do when they’re standing in a cold rain, and they know that if they don’t unload their tickets on you cheaply, you’re just going to end up buying the cheapest seats available at the ticket window and sitting wherever you want (despite the posturing from one guy that we’d be paying double what he was offering us if we went to the window). Sure, Gus and I paid pretty much exactly what we would have paid for tickets if we hadn’t let the scalper pull entice us away from the ticket window, and our seats weren’t located together, but it didn’t matter. We bought our tickets for well under face value, and successfully knocked our scalper down $10 without even trying. We went away with the satisfaction of knowing we’d haggled somewhat successfully. And let’s face it, that guy probably bought those tickets for half of what we paid, so really, everybody won.
2) One of the reasons that I was excited to check out the Marquette-UW-Whitewater game tonight was that Whitewater always seems to have some former local high school players of note. I was not let down, as interesting sub-plots included former high school teammates Wesley Matthews and Kori Vernon on opposing teams, and former Marquette walk-on Andy Freund returning to town as a starter for the Warhawks. Matthews was solid as always, Vernon played only a handful of minutes, and Freund, limited by foul trouble, still acquitted himself nicely, hauling in 10 rebounds.
3) As noted, Andy Freund rebounded well, as did his teammates. I didn’t realize how horrendous Marquette’s rebounding was (I knew it was bad, but had no idea how much so) until the post-game show when it was noted that Marquette had fewer rebounds that its opponent in both of its exhibitions. If the Golden Eagles big men don’t pick it up quickly and significantly, this season is going to be very, very painful. As of this moment, Marquette has been out-rebounded by physically smaller opponents from a division two and a division three school. Can you imagine what Uconn’s going to do?
4) The one bright spot in the frontcourt for the Golden Eagles was Jamil Lott, who continues to impress, and largely had his way any time he received the ball in the post. Lott’s quickly becoming the big man that the Golden Eagles will look to this year. The true test will come when he faces someone closer to his own size, but for now, he’s off to a very encouraging start.
5) Steve Novak could not miss in the first half. I think he may have been using magnets to cheat or something. He hit four three-pointers, one of which was taken from a slightly off-balance position, and one of which was from a completely off-balance stance after being fouled hard. I haven’t reviewed the play of Mr. J.J. Reddick of Duke on ESPN2 tonight (he’s on the DVR as we speak), but if we were having shooting contest, I can tell you that I wouldn’t be betting on the guy from Durham. And to Novak’s credit, he actually had some nice drives to the hoop tonight.
6) Whitewater’s Billy Koliniske, a former local high school player of note was matched up against Novak for much of the second half. Three things are notable about this matchup. First, Novak repeatedly drove hard at Kolinske, who couldn’t defend the man with the hot hand. Second, one of the reasons that Novak could take it so hard at Kolinske is that Kolinske is built like a shorter, thinner version of Novak, so there was nothing to be scared of. Finally, if they were casting for extras to play Richie Cunningham’s teammates at Jefferson High in an episode of Happy Days, both of these guys would have the inside track.
7) I decided to take the plunge and try something from one of the “new and improved” menus at one of the concession stands. I bought a buffalo chicken sandwich topped with blue cheese cole slaw. It was pretty good, and very spicy, but it wasn’t $7 good. No sandwich is. I probably wouldn’t have even bought the thing if I hadn’t incorrectly hypothesized that for $7 they would have to throw in some fries. Next time I’m sticking to popcorn.
8) As I was taking my sandwich back to my seat, I noted a couple dining at a table near the concession stand and watching the game on television. As I walked by, the guy exclaimed at the TV, “Come on, Marquette, you’ve got two guys right under the hoop! How can you not get that rebound!?!” I felt like looking back and exclaiming “Come on weak-ass Marquette fans! How can you not be in your seats inside the arena!?!” Seriously, who feels the need to actually stay in the concourse and have a nice dinner when you’re ordering from the concession stand. You’re here for the game–just take the hamburger into the stands with you like a normal person and watch the game live. You could have hamburgers and watch the game on TV from home most nights, and it would cost you 1/3 of the price.
9) The night would not be complete without some discussion of the UW-Whitewater mascot. The Warhawk had one of the most pathetic costumes that I’ve ever seen. There was a basic mascot head and some feathers, but the legs of the mascot appeared not to be standard furry mascot leggings, but sweatpants instead. As a result, the legs looked both frail and cheap. The topping off of the ensemble with a t-shirt up top added a second layer of low-rent mascot costuming. But you know what they say that it’s not what’s on the outside of the mascot, but what’s inside that counts (okay, no one’s ever said that, but I’m saying it now). And the guy (or girl) inside the mascot costume was astoundingly good. His dancing is what set him apart, but he also played around with the refs effectively and generally kept the energy level high. Not a lot of division three guys ever get the chance to jump to pro sports after college, but if the guy playing the San Diego Chicken dies or something, the guy in the Warhawk costume could get a shot. I can only imagine what he would do with proper legs.
10) After my praise of the Whitewater mascot, it seems as good a time as ever to note that I’ve been forgetting to mention that I think the new Marquette Golden Eagle mascot that was unveiled prior to the season is a tremendous upgrade. Whereas I always thought the old one looked a lot more like a platypus than any sort of bird, let alone an eagle, the new mascot actually has some eagle characteristics. So, maybe something good did come out of the whole mascot controversy this summer.
11) Dominic James continued to show off impressive athletic ability, tonight choosing the cross-over dribble as his weapon of choice. Once he starts going to this regularly, I don’t see many people stopping him from getting to the hole. His quickness is nearly as great as his leaping ability. All that said, he’s going to need to learn to knock off some of the showy passes that he threw tonight, and occasionally just go for the score himself. Yeah, you read that right–I promise you, someone this wonderful does exist.
12) Line of the night goes to my friend Dez, who attended the game with his wife, and who Gus and I met up with. As Whitewater’s dance team took the floor at halftime to perform a routine prior to the Marquette squad, it quickly became obvious that it wasn’t doing the most difficult routine ever. Dez noted to us all at this point, “It’s pretty clear that Whitewater’s dance team has a no-cut policy. I would have some idea about that, since it’s how I ended up playing college baseball.”
13) Wesley Matthews had one of the most painful nights of spills onto the floor that I’ve ever seen. Hopefully he’ll stop flying around so much, because if he doesn’t he’s going to get hurt several times this year.
14) I caught some of the post-game show on the way back, and I continued to be impressed with the observations made by former Marquette star and current play-by-play man Jim McIlvaine. While I miss the comically bad George Thompson, McIlvaine is legitimately good enough to make up for the loss of Thompson’s comic lack of genius. Of course, McIlvaine’s got plenty of time to make astute observations, as his ridiculous NBA contract given out after roughly one month of solid play has set him up for life. And yes, as I’ve mentioned before, he’s my hero for the contract thing. The fact that he’s a good announcer is just gravy.
15) Rough night for Wesley Matthews at back-up point guard. He or someone else had better step into the role, or else there’s a chance of collapse if Dominic James goes down like Travis Diener last year. Seldom is a freshman so vital to his team.
Eventually the game ended, with no truly threatening charge from the Warhawks down the stretch. And here I am now at home. I know the scores of the Duke-BU game and the Wisconsin-Lawrence exhibition (both of which I’m likely to get comments on from friends), and am off to find a UW-Green Bay vs. Washington score. Let’s hope the Phoenix didn’t get worked over in the same manner as last year when Michigan State flat-out embarrassed them. And if I have 15 minutes, maybe I’ll take in some of that Duke game on the DVR box. Until tomorrow...