Larranaga, Miami fall in Sweet 16
Every superhero needs a cool name. Marquette's leading blue and gold clad crusader goes by the moniker Vander Blue. Check.
A superhero often requires a sidekick, maybe more, and each with unique power. Jamil Wilson's long-range shooting, Trent Lockett climbing backboards for seemingly every rebound, power-packed scorer Davante Gardner. Check.
Every superhero also must sport an epic amount of heroic flair, a now legendary trait Blue used to save the day for the Golden Eagles twice in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Alas, against Miami, there was no waiting for a dramatic entrance, no running into a burning house.
That's because Blue sizzled early and often against the higher seeded Hurricanes. That's because Wilson raged from deep, Lockett the same on the glass. That's because Marquette players defended like their life depended on it, which in a NCAA Tournament sense, it did.
By surviving and advancing, the third-seeded Golden Eagles went, up and away to their first Elite Eight appearance under coach Buzz Williams with a 71-61 victory over No. 2 Miami.
Marquette will play Big East foe Syracuse on Saturday at 4:30. The Golden Eagles won the only meeting this year 74-71 in Milwaukee.
After this game, Blue shared the secret to the Golden Eagles collective super powers: disrespect.
"We're used to people not giving us credit, saying we were no good," said Blue, who made the game-winning layup in the opening round against No. 14 Davidson and scored 29 points in the two-point win over Butler in the round of 32.
"If you were to look at our roster no one would expect us to be a Elite Eight team," Blue continued. "Our guys don't get into that much, but it's good to know if you step on to the court, if you don't give us respect, we're going to earn it."
That sense of disregard starts with their often overlooked coach, the only in Washington without a Final Four appearance. Marquette won a share of the Big East regular season title after being thought of in the preseason as just a bunch of ordinary Joe's. Williams noted that despite the title run, only Blue received a slot on any of the Big East's all-conference teams - and only the second team at that.
The coach also took to task a national article this week that ranked Marquette last among all the remaining 16 teams.
"We will be dead last when we wake up on Saturday, too, I guess we will be 8th out of 8," said Williams, who took Marquette to the round of 16 in each of the previous two seasons.
No matter what place the Golden Eagles find themselves in by the end of the season, it's hard imagining them soaring any higher than they did the first 30 minutes against the Hurricanes, ACC regular season and tournament champions.
There was the early 10-0 run, started by the first of Blue's 14 points. After stealing the ball from Miami's Durand Scott - for good, not evil - Blue finished the caper with a flying dunk.
After Wilson sank two 3-pointers, Blue's jumper capped the half with Marquette up 29-16.
"It feels good not to have to have to wait for a last second shot," said Wilson, who finished with 16 points and four 3-pointers. "These guys played with tremendous heart. We did it all game."
Miami finished the first half shooting 20.7 percent (6 of 29) from the field. Early portions of the second half were something out of a poorly scripted sequel for the coach Jim Larranaga's squad. Another Blue basket pushed the score to 51-30 with 10 minutes remaining. While the lead up was hardly formulaic, by that point the result was clear.
Lockett grabbed game-high 11 rebounds while Gardener muscled home 14 points off the bench. Shane Larkin led the Hurricanes with 14 points, but the Hurricanes as a whole made as many field goals (22) as Marquette's Fantastic Four but attempted far, far more.
There is another notable superhero staple: the catch phrase. For now, Blue's is concealed, but Wilson shared the team's slogan, which comes from Marquette's driving force.
"One of Buzz' favorite quotes is get up and ring the bell every day," said Wilson, who credited the team's toughness with off-season boot camp work at Williams' request. "So as a group we build toughness by going every day into practice, you know, and practicing hard. Trying not to give a day away or a shot away or a rep away of anything because at the end of the day you're going to need that rep and especially in this part of the season."
As for that unique handle, Blue said, "I like my name a lot, it's different. Everybody says it's a sports name, a name for a star. I'm just trying to live a dream out right now."
Talk about the ultimate Super Hero quest.