Northern Colorado (3-6) at Marquette (9-0)

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By CHRIS ALTRUDA, STATS Editor Friday, Dec 16, 2011 Tipoff: 4:00 pm EST Sat Dec 17, 2011

Marquette had to make some extreme adjustments in its last game following a spate of injuries.

After a long layoff, the 11th-ranked Golden Eagles get some of their frontcourt depth back Saturday when they host Northern Colorado while trying to remain unbeaten.

Coach Buzz Williams saw starting center Chris Otule go down with a knee injury in the early minutes of Marquette’s 79-77 victory over Washington on Dec. 6. In practices later that week, freshman forward Juan Anderson hurt his shoulder and junior swingman Jamil Wilson sprained his ankle, leaving the Golden Eagles (9-0) with eight available players for their 79-61 victory last Saturday over Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Jae Crowder had 21 points, and Marquette forced 25 turnovers that led to 34 points despite players taking on new roles.

“We were just out of sync at times, but I thought our guys were trying to hang in there and trying to get back in a groove,” Williams said. “At times we did. At times we didn’t.”

While there is no timetable for the 6-foot-11 Otule to return, the 6-7 Wilson is expected to be available. Williams is also leaning on 6-8, 290-pound sophomore Davante Gardner and fellow second-year guard Vander Blue to chip in on the glass.

“I thought his energy was good,” said Williams of Gardner, who had 14 points and seven rebounds in a career-high 30 minutes in his first start. “We have to continue to evolve how to figure out how to best play Davante.

“Getting Jamil back Saturday will help some, and then hopefully we can get Juan back and potentially Chris back in the next couple of weeks and that will help defensively.”

Blue, who has more than doubled his scoring average to 10.9 points while contributing 4.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game, knows he has to help pick up the slack.

“We have to get in there a little bit because we’re not that big (with Otule out),” said Blue, who also had 14 points and seven rebounds - all on the defensive end. “Chris is a big factor. He does a lot of little things. Coach tells us, `Now everybody has to rebound. Now it’s a team effort.’”

Darius Johnson-Odom, who averages a team-best 18.8 points, will try to bounce back after being held to a season-low 10. Marquette, which hasn’t started 10-0 since 2001-02, is one of nine remaining unbeaten teams in Division I.

Northern Colorado (3-6) has dropped two of three, including a 71-65 loss to Denver on Wednesday. Tate Unruh hit five 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 19 points for the Bears, but they never recovered from an 11-0 run by the Pioneers to start the second half.

Another issue for the Bears was the 18 turnovers that led to 25 points for Denver. Northern Colorado has committed 16 or more turnovers in five of its six losses, partially offsetting its 42.9 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Paul Garnica, who leads the team with 14.4 points and 3.7 assists per game, has made 23 of 44 (52.3 percent) from beyond the arc.

This is the first meeting between the teams.

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