Vanderbilt-Marquette Preview

The Associated Press

Marquette showed an ability to bounce back from a loss in its last game, while Vanderbilt may have finally turned a corner past its early inconsistency in winning its last two.

The two teams meet Thursday night at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee hoping to further their momentum.

The 14th-ranked Golden Eagles (11-1) regrouped from a 67-59 defeat at LSU by beating Wisconsin-Milwaukee 64-50 last Thursday. Junior Cadougan matched a career high with 15 points for Marquette, which limited the Panthers to 26.7 percent shooting and 16 field goals.

"The maturity of our team collectively was outstanding," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "I was really proud of them. It's been a lot of stuff, and I thought that how we handled the loss, how we responded to what the film taught us, how we practiced, how we handled shootaround, how we handled not making shots tonight was superb."

While Cadougan took on more of a scoring load in the last game, the Golden Eagles are hoping the Christmas break will help guards Darius Johnson-Odom and Todd Mayo snap out of their shooting funks. Johnson-Odom is averaging a team-high 17.9 points but has made 39.4 percent of his shots in his last five games after shooting 57.1 percent in his first six.

Mayo, a freshman and younger brother of Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo, has provided a spark off the bench averaging 9.7 points but is 2 for 11 his last two games.

Starting center Chris Otule will miss his fifth straight contest due to an ACL injury to his left knee, with Williams hoping the junior may be available for Marquette's Big East opener against Villanova on Sunday.

Vanderbilt (8-4) has played more like a team ranked seventh in the AP preseason Top 25 in handily winning its last two games as opposed to the uneven squad that dropped three early contests at home, including upsets by Cleveland State and Indiana State.

John Jenkins hit seven of the Commodores' season-high 15 3-pointers and finished with 27 points in an 89-58 rout of Lafayette on Dec. 21. Jeffery Taylor added 16 points and Lance Goulbourne 15 for Vanderbilt, which has made 27 of 59 from beyond the arc its last two games.

"I think what we've done the last two games that hopefully will carry on is guys are penetrating to kick which is a big thing," said senior guard Brad Tinsley, who matched a career high with 10 assists against the Leopards. "... We've got a lot of guys that can shoot the ball, guys who are penetrating, looking to dish out or something like that. Just makes our team a lot better."

The Commodores may also be without their starting center, as Festus Ezeli has missed the last two games with knee tendinitis. The 6-foot-11 Ezeli, who averaged 13.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks last season, has been limited to two games due to injuries and an NCAA-imposed suspension for receiving improper benefits, totaling just 19 points and 10 rebounds.

A layup with 4.1 seconds left gave Vanderbilt a 77-76 home win over Marquette last season, though Jenkins went 2 of 15 from 3-point range and 4 of 21 overall.

Johnson-Odom had 14 points for the Golden Eagles, who shot 56.1 percent but allowed Vanderbilt 12 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second-chance points.

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