Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 12/17/11
MILWAUKEE For most of this young 2010-2011 season, the Marquette Golden Eagles have been able to make the most of a deep bench.Head coach Buzz Williams regularly went 11 players deep and it looked like teams were going to have to be in pretty good shape to keep up. Unfortunately, that depth has all but disappeared for various reasons, leaving WIlliams to make the most of what he has available. Saturday, the No. 11 Golden Eagles were again forced to suit up shorthanded after senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom was suspended for the game against Northern Colorado for a violation of team rules.Marquette nevertheless responded with a 93-72 victory over the Bears, improving to 10-0 for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. A similar situation unfolded a few weeks back when Marquette upset then No. 7 Wisconsin, 61-54, in Madison despite playing without junior guard Junior Cadougan. He, too, was benched by Williams for a game due to a rules violation."Considering all that we have been through," Williams said. "Some of which we wanted to happen, some of which we didn't want to happen, some of which we couldn't control .. two weeks ago we're playing at Wisconsin and you think about all the turmoil we've been through, like every team goes through, and I thought our guys really responded well."While Williams lacks the depth he enjoyed earlier this season, he does have at his disposal a talented bunch of promising underclassmen, which has seen its collective playing time grow as the season wears on. The Golden Eagles' four sophomores, Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, Jamail Jones and Jamil Wilson have seen extended action this season.Blue has been a regular in the starting lineup and is averaging 11.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. Gardner has seen his minutes grow and has taken started twice since Otule suffered an ACL injury.Then there is the freshman class, which at the moment, is headlined by Todd Mayo. The 6-foot-3 guard from Huntington, W.V. set a career high against Northern Colorado with 22 points in 34 minutes of action."I think Todd's really good," Williams said. "But I've always thought he was really good. You think about the impact that he's had for us through 10 games, on both ends of the floor."He has created a niche as a freshman that I don't know that I have seen. We count on him, we really do. On both ends. Im really happy for him. He's had a great first semester of his college career."Juan Anderson returned to the lineup Saturday, which was something of a surprise. He suffered a shoulder injury in Marquette's 79-77 victory over Washington Dec. 6 and was expected to miss between 3-4 weeks.According to Williams, he was cleared to return immediately prior to the game. He had participated in individual workouts Thursday and Friday and took part in the team's shoot around Saturday morning. Against the Bears, Anderson played eight minutes and pulled down a rebound.Williams is counting on Anderson to contribute however he can."I don't know that he can always play eight minutes but whatever he can play could end up being really important to us depending on certain situations," Williams said. "If he can defend and rebound I think those eight minute can be really important for us."Anderson missed the first three games of the season as a result of accepting a ticket to a Brewers playoff game, which violated NCAA benefits rules. Since then, though, he's earned his way back into the rotation with his performance on the court and in practice.With so many young players on the roster, the Golden Eagles' 10-0 record and lofty ranking is somewhat surprising to outside observers. Both of those could be challenged this week with a trip to LSU Monday and the start of Big East play right around the corner.Williams isn't concerned about youth and inexperience at this point, but admits it could be a challenge."We don't play for the rankings," Wlliams said. "We don't play for anything other than to improve. And when you think about the last two weeks and all the things we've been through, it's not a fairy tale. And so you have to continue to improve despite the changes. And I think that's really hard to do when you're a young team."
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