Marquette back on winning track at Fullerton
FULLERTON, Calif. — After an ugly start on offense this season, Marquette is making strides.
Jamil Wilson scored a career-high 24 points and the 25th-ranked Golden Eagles routed tournament host Cal State Fullerton 86-66 on Thursday in the first round of the Wooden Legacy.
Davante Gardner and Jajuan Johnson each had 18 points off the bench for Marquette. The Golden Eagles (4-2) shot 55.7 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range (7 of 16), both season highs. Entering the game, they were hitting just 38.7 percent from the field and 22.3 percent beyond the arc.
“I think the ball is moving, it isn’t getting stopped, and we’re getting it reversed quickly,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I think that our ball and body movement in the last six days has been as good as it’s been all year long … and I think that’s somewhat helped our field goal percentage.”
Wilson and Gardner grabbed nine rebounds apiece for Marquette, which will play George Washington in the tournament semifinals Friday. The Titans (2-4) face Miami in the consolation bracket.
Shooting wasn’t the only category Marquette excelled in. The Golden Eagles outrebounded the Titans 40-20, outscored them in the paint 42-24 and also had more assists (19-11), blocks (3-2) and steals (6-5).
“We were moving the ball well and everyone collectively was making their shots,” Wilson said. “We really had no weakness on the floor. Guys made shots, guys attacked the basket, and we hit the offensive glass like we usually do.”
The Golden Eagles led by as many as 26 points, allowing backups to play the majority of the second half.
Michael Williams scored 16 points and Marquis Horne added 13 for Cal State Fullerton.
“We’ve got to regroup (and) we have to have our mental focus,” Horne said. “We obviously have to rebound the ball better than we did today.”
Wilson needed just 20 minutes to set a career high, scoring 20 points in the first half alone to help the Golden Eagles jump out to a 48-35 halftime lead. His previous career high was 19 points, which he had done twice.
Wilson finished 10 of 14 from the field, including 3 for 3 from beyond the arc.
“I think I was just taking the shots they gave me. I wasn’t really rushing anything,” Wilson said. “My team was looking for me for the most part.”
Wilson wasn’t the only Marquette player with a high shooting percentage. Gardner went 8 of 11 from the field and Johnson was 6 of 8, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range. Starting center Chris Otule shot 3 of 5 for seven points in limited action.
“I think that you could say that maybe their confidence is growing, but our confidence is growing because we’re playing the right way,” Buzz Williams said. “Not because all of a sudden they became shooters.”
Cal State Fullerton tied it at 11 on Horne’s jumper just more than 5 minutes into the game.
That was the last time the Titans were in it, though, as the Golden Eagles reeled off a 20-8 run to take a double-digit lead and get the rout started. Wilson scored eight points during that spurt and Gardner had six.
“At the end of the day we just wore down,” Cal State Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor said. “Their guys are really big inside and we just didn’t have an answer. … You have to acknowledge (their height) but you focus on what you can control and try to keep the ball out of their hands. We didn’t do as well of a job as we would have liked to.”