After an efficient sophomore year in which he averaged 13.0 points on 45.5 percent shooting, including 47.4 percent from distance, Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom took his game a step further this season. By upping his scoring average by nearly three points and making big strides on the defensive end, he became an All-Big East Second Team selection and led Marquette to a 9-9 record in the toughest conference in America. Friday night, DJO poured in a game-high 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting to lead his 11th-seeded Golden Eagles past 6th-seeded Xavier. On Sunday, DJO went for 17, including the game-winning triple with 25 seconds left, to lift Marquette to another upset over 3-seeded Syracuse, clinching the school’s first Sweet 16 birth since the Dwyane Wade era. Here are his words:
We left for the game around 6:10 yesterday, and the Q (Quicken Loans Arena) was just a couple blocks away from us. Everybody was focused, and we had about 35 minutes to prepare ourselves and look over the scouting reports from our assistant coach Tony Benford. It got down to eight minutes in the Ohio State game, and we started going over our preparation for Syracuse. Tony does a great job of preparing us and telling us what they do well. Our coaching staff just gives us the best opportunities and the best chances for success with scouting reports. When you play a team like Syracuse, they’re definitely gonna make runs, and with their 2-3 zone, they’re gonna get points in transition. We tried to adjust, which you have to do in a game like that.
As far as the trash talk, me and Scoop [Jardine] are really close, so we’re gonna compete anyway. But our competing was a little different than what him and Jae [Crowder] had going on. Trash talking is a part of the game, not violent, not like talking about each other’s families or nothing, but there’s a lot of trash talking. But for me, I was just trying to get my team in there as much as possible, yelling on the court as much as possible and trying to tell our team to get a stop. We’re fighting for our lives here, and my team responded well.
Basically on that play when I hit the three, we just wanted to attack the gaps, get an easy bucket, get into the paint. Jimmy [Butler] just made an incredible pass, and he knew I was behind him. And me and Jimmy have been working good together this year, and he had trusted me for that shot, and saw there wasn’t much time left on the shot clock, so what else was I gonna do?
I was in shock, man. I don’t think nobody from our team had ever been on that stage. None of our assistant coaches have, players, so it was a dream come true for a lot of people in this moment. For a coach to have so many coaching jobs and to work his way up by himself, you’re always blessed to see something like that for him and his family.
After everything (going to prep school for a year and then playing a year of JUCO), it’s just a good moment. There’s been a lot of times where I could’ve quit on trying to make it to this level, but I kept fighting, and it’s a lesson for every day life – you gotta keep fighting for what you want, and you gotta be the toughest man. And the toughest puncher’s gonna win, no matter what. But you have to have a tough mindset to get through a lot of things in this world. And our team has done that.
We flew back last night, and I went to class this morning. For me, I had an 8 o’clock class. I got in at 3 o’clock, and I couldn’t even stay asleep. I woke up at 6:45 and just was up for no reason; just excited and ecstatic about what happened the other night, but I’ll probably catch a nap at some point today. On campus, I’m getting a lot of long stares and a lot of, “Good job,” “Good game.” You get a lot of attention in class from your teachers, too, so it’s pretty cool – something a lot of guys will remember for the rest of their lives.
I wanna shout out my teammates and Marquette University. It’s something sweet for us to be headed to the Sweet 16. We just gotta continue working and continue getting better…
Follow DJO on Twitter at @KingMe_DJ1.
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