First, to business: The Streak is officially continued.
Now, about that Marquette game. It reminded me a lot of the NC State game. SU exploded in the first half and basically could do no wrong. On defense they were forcing turnovers, challenging every shot, denying the GEagles any access to the lane. On offense they were draining threes, snaking into the paint for layups, and generally efficient and poised. The rout was on… except it wasn’t. Just like against the Wolfpack a few weeks ago, they came out with less energy and focus, and let the GEagles scratch and poke their way back into the game. Unlike the NC State game, though, the lead never quite disappeared completely. And it’s probably a good thing, too. Psychologically I think it was important that Marquette never quite tied up the game, so that when SU pushed the lead back up late, it seemed more like the door was officially shut. Which — eventually — it was.
Frankly, I’m just glad to get that game out of the way. I’ve had enough of Marquette and their scrappy, undersized, tenacious, football-physiqued team. Their rugged style is always a tough matchup for SU, and you never know which way the annual scrum with them will go. I would rather not meet them in the Big East Tournament — or the NCAAs, obviously. This one helps to exorcise the demons of last March, but only barely. It would have been much more cathartic if SU had actually blown them out of the gym, but it was not to be.
Please note: the rotation is tightening, as we knew it would. It took longer than I expected, but that’s partly because you can still count the number of close, tight games on one hand. That said, I actually started to think early in the 2nd half that Michael Carter-Williams maybe should get a little bit of time in the backcourt. When he came in against Providence, he brought a lot of intensity, especially on defense. He gave the team a little jolt when they were growing lackadaisical, and that jolt helped put the Friars away for good. SU could have used that sort of a jolt early in the 2nd half of this one. This is not a “second-guess” because I learned long ago to trust in the wisdom of James A Boeheim Sr. Just a nervous thought I had while watching the lead shrivel as various GEagle players drove the lane at will.
Villanova is next. They finally got off the conference schneid with a win over DePaul this weekend, but you can be sure they will be hyped up and ready to give SU their best shot. Jay Wright often has a good system for attacking the zone. It used to involve Dante Cunningham hitting about a dozen foul-line jumpers, but he’s been gone for a couple years now. If they can find someone to fill that role Wednesday night, they could pose another solid challenge for the Orange.