Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 3/3/12
MILWAUKEE Earlier this year, when the Marquette Golden Eagles went into the always-tough Kohl Center to face a top-10 Wisconsin team missing one of their key players, head coach Buzz Williams made a prophetic statement."The only way you can grow up is when people are standing dead on top of your neck and you have to figure out a way to breathe," Williams said after his team, playing without suspended point guard Junior Cadougan, beat the Badgers, 61-54. "That's life. That's not basketball. That's just a microcosm of life. It's not going to be easy and so what's the best way to grow up? The best way to grow up is to have someone hit you in the mouth and see if you can respond."Look out, college basketball. These Golden Eagles sure have found ways to respond. Time and time and time again.Throughout the Big East season, the Golden Eagles needed to find ways to compensate for injuries to key players like centers Chris Otule and Davante Gardner. They had to find ways to dig themselves out of early deficits. They had to find ways to recover after tough losses. Theyve had to endure disciplinary suspensions.And each and every time, they answered the call.After dropping two of their first three league contests, the Golden Eagles rattled off seven consecutive victories and finished the regular season with a 14-4 mark in Big East play, their highest victory ever in Big East play. Marquette put an exclamation point on one of the best regular seasons in the program's recent history with a 83-69 victory over No. 11 Georgetown Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center.As is their routine, the Golden Eagles relied heavily on their seniors, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. Playing in their final game at the Bradley Center, the duo combined for 43 points and 17 rebounds, setting the pace for their teammates and keeping the Hoyas on their heels for much of the game.Thats the formula. And its worked almost every game. So well that even opponents are left impressed."You have them credit," Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said Saturday. "They've overcome a lot of obstacles this year with the injuries they've had and they found a way to fight through it and keep plugging along."That's a credit to Buzz and those kids."The only thing keeping the Golden Eagles from a possible No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament is a lack of victories against top-25 teams (1). To their credit, however, they've beaten five teams ranked between 26-50 and will likely add to their totals with a couple of victories this week at the conference tournament in New York.Fortunately for Marquette, a few days of much-needed rest awaits. The victory Saturday clinched sole possession of second place in the league, the No. 2 seed and a double-bye in the conference tournament. The Golden Eagles wont return to action until the quarterfinals Thursday night.And for those who have paid attention to Marquette this season, it shouldnt be tough to figure out that the Golden Eagles will use that time wisely and wont be sitting back, watching the preliminary games on television."We're focused on winning the Big East championship now," senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom said. "We've got some momentum going into New York. That Cincinnati loss, we'd rather get that out of the way than lose in New York."They're undersized. They're relatively unknown. They don't have the blue chip talent that dominates the rosters of most of the nation's upper echelon teams. But despite all that, the Golden Eagles are well-coached and pretty darn good.And unfortunately for the rest of college basketball, it looks like they're getting hot at just the right time. Follow Andrew Wagner on Twitter.
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