Mar 18, 2012, 8:00 AM EDT
To say that guards Junior Cadougan and Todd Mayo struggled in Marquette’s one game at the Big East Championship last week would be an understatement.
Neither played well in the Golden Eagles’ quarterfinal loss to Louisville, and it was imperative that those two raise their level of play if Marquette were to reach their goals in the NCAA tournament.
If the play of Cadougan and Mayo in Marquette’s 62-53 win over 6-seed Murray State is any indication, both are ready to be key contributors as the Golden Eagles look to return to the site of their most recent Final Four appearance (2003).
Cadougan scored eight points and dished out four assists with just one turnover and Mayo scored eight and grabbed six rebounds off the bench, with both getting their shot at guarding All-America point guard Isaiah Canaan.
They were two big reasons (along with Vander Blue) why Canaan made 4 of 17 shots from the field, scoring 16 points while Donte Poole scored seven on 3 of 13 shooting. And their play did not go unappreciated by their higher-profile teammates.
“I think everybody was able to see Junior Cadougan as the point guard of our team nationally,” said Darius Johnson-Odom of Cadougan. “He’s always been an elite player, but I think everybody who watches basketball was able to see it today.”
It would have been easy for them to get discouraged in the aftermath of the 84-71 loss to Louisville that featured a stunning 26 turnovers, but they didn’t.
Both continued to work, and at the current level they’re playing at Cadougan and Mayo are more than capable of helping Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder lead the Golden Eagles to the Final Four.
“And what about D.J.’s answer about Junior, after all you guys are going we need a point guard,” asked head coach Buzz Williams. “You think those kids don’t pay attention? You think those kids don’t want to fight?
“That a senior who’s a pro is talking about a junior who everybody jumped off the boat when we left New York. Everybody jumped off the boat when Todd couldn’t make a shot.”
Cadougan finished the weekend in Louisville with nine assists to just four turnovers, posting an assist-to-turnover ratio (2.25) better than his ratio over the prior six games (1.5).
Mayo was also better in Louisville, averaging nine points and six rebounds after accounting for 4.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game during that same six-game stretch.
Clearly Crowder and Johnson-Odom will lead the way if Marquette is to reach the Final Four, but based on what happened on Saturday and the reactions following it’s safe to say that they all understand that Cadougan and Mayo will be important as the games get bigger.
And in front of a pro-Murray State crowd, the two guys outsiders pegged to crack first showed no signs of doing so.
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