Saving The Best For Last

By Troy A. Sparks, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: March 6, 2010

MILWAUKEE (BASN) — By this weekend, some of the Marquette men’s players and head coach Buzz Williams would have experienced a variety of life experiences as a team, from dancing to crying to showing compassion for others and showing up their opponents.

When the Golden Eagles put a beatdown on visiting Louisville Wednesday at home, it all but solidified their ticket to the Big Dance, regardless how they fare in the Big East Postseason Tournament next week.

It was one thing for a longtime established and successful coach like Rick Pitino to take probably one of the worst whippings from an undersized Marquette team with no starters over 6-foot-6.

It was another for senior Jerry Smith to have a mediocre game for the Cardinals in his return back to Milwaukee for the last time in the regular season.

Things got so bad for Pitino that he chose not to come to the media room after the game to address his disappointment in his team, who like Marquette, are fighting to make the NCAA Tournament field.

With 33 seconds remaining in regulation in Wednesday’s game, sophomore Darius Johnson-Odom threw down a one-handed, tip-in dunk from a missed three-point shot by senior Lazar Hayward for a 69-46 Marquette lead.

They won the game, 69-48.

And there was Williams, stomping in excitement down the sideline of his team’s bench. But he admitted that he wasn’t trying to show anybody up. No! Say it ain’t so.

Al McGuire stood on a table and raised his arms after Marquette beat in-state rival Wisconsin in 1974 at the old Arena, despite receiving a middle finger from a Badger fan.

“I probably didn’t handle myself very well professionally on that,” Williams said about the dunk.

“I was like, ‘Goodness gracious!’ I think (DJO’s) middle finger was above the top of the square. He pushed that thing down.”

Williams’ dance was also symbolic in nature as a message sent to the NCAA Tournament Committee that they expect to be one of the 64 teams in the Big Dance.

At Marquette’s press conference Thursday, Hayward and the other two seniors, David Cubillan and Maurice Acker, had a running bet on who would show tears of emotion on Senior Day Saturday against Notre Dame.

“We were all betting on who was going to cry first,” Acker said. “I say that Lazar’s gonna cry first, but I think I’m going to be the one to cry last. But if I see my mom crying, I think I’m gonna cry.”

Acker said he and Cubillan thinks Hayward will be more emotional. “We just got that feeling,” he said.

“Lazar is a little more emotional than me and David, so we bet that Lazar’s gonna be the first one (to cry).”

Added Hayward, “For me, I’m going to try to be as least emotionable as possible. Hopefully, I’ll be able to hide my feelings and all my emotions. But I’m pretty sure I’ll probably won’t be able to.”

Recently, some of the players were approached by a homeless man one day and helped him out, even giving him a ticket to watch the Louisville game. “I actually just starting seeing him,” Hayward said.

“Jimmy (Butler) and (Acker) and (DJO), they see him a lot. I started to see him come around.

He’s just a really, really nice guy. He was at the Louisville game. Buzz gave him a hug.”

Williams often run into Ed, the homeless man invited to the game, in the wee hours of the morning and helps him out. “I have compassion for people like that,” he said.

“I’ve done that a lot since I’ve been here. It just so happened that it got out.

“There’s a bunch of (homeless) people about a block away (from the Al McGuire Center). I walk down there all the time. I don’t leave until 1 or 2 in the morning most nights. There’s a lot of people over there about midnight.”

“Sometimes, when my eyes are popping out of my head and I’m tired of watching tape, I’ll just walk outside and see what’s happening.

And then I’ll get a real good glimpse of what the real world is.”

Williams said he wasn’t doing his good deed for publicity because he acknowledges that it could’ve been him. That’s just part of his character outside of being the coach.

Maybe he’ll cry during the Senior Day festivities after Saturday’s game.