Fresh off a season-opening victory, the 22nd- ranked Marquette Golden Eagles will take on the Norfolk State Spartans tonight in Milwaukee.
Norfolk State returns two starters and 11 letterwinners from last season's 12-20 team that advanced to the MEAC Tournament semifinals. The Spartans are 2-2 in season openers under head coach Anthony Evans and 33-25 all-time in lidlifters. Still, they are just 3-11 in openers since joining Division I in 1997-98.
Last season, Marquette finished 22-15 overall, including 9-9 against Big East Conference opposition. The Golden Eagles welcome back seven letterwinners, including three starters, and two of the returnees were double-digit scorers. Buzz Williams is the head coach at Marquette, and his group lost to North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Norfolk State and Marquette on the hardwood.
Norfolk State center Kyle O'Quinn was picked as the preseason MEAC Player of the Year. The big man performs well at both ends of the floor, and he has the ability to take over a game. Last year, O'Quinn averaged 16.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg and also racked up 110 blocks. There is no doubt that he will be near the top of the league in several statistical categories again this season, but the question for Norfolk State is who will step up and offer consistent support. Chris McEachin posted 10.3 ppg last year in just 18 games, but the guard shot well under 40 percent and will need to be more consistent in a relatively inexperienced backcourt. Rodney McCauley is another senior wing player who figures to get plenty of touches at the offensive end tonight and all season long.
Six players scored in double figures for Marquette in the romp over Mount St. Mary's on Friday. Leading the balanced attack was Darius Johnson-Odom with 16 points. Jae Crowder and Chris Otule pitched in with 14 points each, while Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan and Jamail Jones each contributed 10 points. The Golden Eagles connected on 56.3 percent of their field goal attempts and finished with 21 assists against only 10 turnovers. They earned a 15-3 edge in points from the foul line and forced a staggering total of 29 turnovers while limiting their overmatched opponent to 29.1 percent field goal efficiency. Last season, Johnson-Odom netted 15.8 ppg on the strength of 71 three- pointers, and he remains the go-to guy at the offensive end of the court.