Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin
By ANDREW GRUMAN  |  Last updated 11/13/13
MILWAUKEE -- Anything done against Grambling State has to betaken with a grain of salt, but Marquette's heralded freshman class looked awhole lot better in game number two.After combining for three points in the opener against Southern,the trio of Deonte Burton, Jajuan Johnson and John Dawson produced 28 points,10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals in Tuesday night's 114-71 victory.Leading the way was Burton, the most physically ready of thefour freshman, with 14 points and six rebounds."They were lower, a lot lower," Burton said. Ifelt more comfortable in playing in the system, and it showed."Burton was aggressive from the minute he checked in againstGrambling, looking for his shot, creating offense with the ball in his handsand crashing the offensive glass.At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Burton has the athleticism tojump out of the gym and the strength to compete in the paint. That's what makesthe Milwaukee Vincent High School product the most prepared of Marquette'sfreshman.Burton's athleticism was on full display Tuesday when hesoared well above the rim to catch and throw down a lob pass from DerrickWilson with one hand."His body can endure," said coach Buzz Williams."If you think about the guys, regardless of classification, that have hadsuccess in our league early, typically it's because their body can endure thepounding that you take."Burton admitted nerves held him back against Southern, andcredited his increased aggressiveness to being more comfortable in thesystem. "I think he has really good instincts, but yourinstincts can't be revealed unless you are playing really hard," Williamssaid. "He has really good instincts; he's struggling figuring out how hardyou have to play."He understands how hard you have to play, he wants toplay really hard, but he wants to take a break every fourth possession and youcan't. Once he can muster the emotion and willpower to play hard everypossession, you'll see his instincts more and more."Where exactly Burton fits into Marquette's rotation remainsa mystery, as the Golden Eagles have a handful of players with an opportunityto seize playing time. Having a big night against Grambling is one thing, doingit against Ohio State on Saturday would be another.Nonetheless, Burton, and all of the unproven players, neededa night like Tuesday before taking on a monstrous challenge against theBuckeyes."It helps my confidence," Burton said. "Iknow I can produce (now), so it helps my confidence a lot."If the aggressive Burton comes to play against the Buckeyes,he'll force Williams to put him on the court."He has a little bit of Jae Crowder in which I don'treally know what's going on, but I feel real comfortable with the ball in myhands," Williams said of Burton. "And I may screw up the play thatyou drew up, but my instincts are going to dominate his game.I love guys like that."Burton wasn't the only freshman to play well Tuesday, ashighly-touted guard Jajuan Johnson broke through for 12 points after being heldscoreless in the opener.All 12 of Johnson's points against Grambling came in thesecond half, as the first shot in seemed to lift a ton of bricks off his back.At media day, Williams singled out Johnson as one of the best performers in theteam's boot camp.That may have put too much pressure on Johnson, as someexpected him to step into the starting lineup and score in bunches right away."His talent ceiling is really, really high,"Williams said. "But how hard you have to play and how strong you have tobe and your body has to be to endure how we play, sometimes only time canimprove that."Was he better (against Grambling State) than he was againstSouthern? Yes. Was he better because he finally made a shot and finally came tolife? We can't allow for offensive sensitivity. Like, Jajuan, you may not get ashot but you still have to play really hard."With fellow freshman Duane Wilson still out with a fracturedleg, point guard John Dawson got a chance to play 20 minutes against Grambling.Dawson scored just two points but he had four rebounds and six assists,including a couple of nice no-look dishes for easy buckets in transition."I thought John played really well," Williamssaid. "I think John can help our team, I just don't know exactly how muchbecause we only have two games to sample it by. He was way better than he wason Friday."Taylor comes on: It wasn't just freshmen who had nerves toshake in the season opener. Sophomore Steve Taylor Jr. had been in the startinglineup for the first time in his career against Southern, and the results wereforgettable.Taylor bounced back from being held scoreless in 15 minutesagainst Southern to post his first-career double-double Tuesday, with careerhighs of 16 points and 11 rebounds."The first game, I just had to let that go,"Taylor said. "I can't live by what happened the last game. I was just readyfor this game."I felt really good today. I don't know why, but when Igot up this morning I just felt like I was ready to go."Taylor showed glimpses of his talent during his freshmanseason, but was held back from summer workouts due to a planned surgery toremove a benign growth that had existed in his right knee for numerousyears.Admittedly not back to 100 percent quite yet, Taylor waspleased with how the knee has responded after two games."It's holding up pretty good," Taylor said. "Ijust have to keep getting treatment. I can't stop doing what I have to do toget my leg stronger."It was hard for me to sit on the side all summerwatching the guys work out. Being that I'm back and almost 100 percent, itmakes me happy."Thomas finds his stroke: Senior guard Jake Thomas can be avaluable weapon for Marquette, but the Golden Eagles need him to do what hedoes best: make shots.Sounds simple, but Thomas fell into a deep slump last yearand lost his confidence along the way. He didn't play much down the stretch andhadn't made a shot since converting a four-point play against Syracuse on Feb.25.After initially looking to transfer this offseason, Thomashas been in Marquette's starting lineup for its first two games, but missed allthree of his shot attempts and both his 3-point attempts against Southern.The Golden Eagles needed Thomas to hit a couple ofconfidence-boosting shots against Grambling, and he did just that. Aftermissing his first 3-point attempt, Thomas hit three of his next four andfinished with 11 points.Thomas averaged close to three 3-pointers made per game inhis two seasons at South Dakota, shooting 44.1 percent from beyond the arc inthe 2009-10 season. That's exactly the kind of production Marquette needs fromhim on a nightly basis."(Thomas) needs to be on (the opposing teams) scoutingreport, Williams said. 'Hey, that guy right there? He shoots. That guy rightthere? When he shoots, he scores.We need that. That spaces the floor even more. Just makeshots." Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter
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