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 to set up a second-round matchup with conference foe Syracuse. Here are his words:
On Friday, we ate breakfast as a team and had a shootaround at 1 and then had some media stuff again. After that, everyone got to take a little nap. After the nap, we had a pre-game meal around 4, and then everyone went to their rooms, and I think that’s when everyone started getting pumped up and realizing what we needed to do in order to win. I felt like from freshmen to seniors, everybody was prepared and was very serious about what we had to do to be successful.
I think everyone just wanted to play, and at the end of the day, I think we did a good job of not being nervous. There’s a lot of emotions in these games, but I thought we did a great job of controlling our emotions; and I thought we were very poised with what we had to do. I felt like I was calm in both tournament games I played (last year and this year), and I just took it as a regular game – didn’t wanna put too much pressure on myself. I just wanted it to be a game that I was focused and ready for, and we knew it was a game we must, must win, so I just went into the game with the same momentum knowing that we had to play.
I wasn’t forcing shots. I took shots I knew I could make, and I thought in the beginning of the game I did a good job of finding other teammates. Jimmy [Butler] found me on one layup, and I threw it right back to him on a cut and he got fouled. When we play unselfish like that, that’s when we’re at our best.
As far as scoring my 1,000th point in a Marquette jersey Friday night, I forgot all about that until Saturday morning. For me, two years in the program to score 1,000 points, I think that’s something that’s pretty good, but I always want to do more. I’d rather try to do something with the team as far as going far in the tournament.
In terms of Syracuse, a lot of people will call our win earlier this year against Syracuse a fluke, and a lot of people will say that’s a game we shouldn’t have won. I don’t know if Syracuse feels that, but I know they’re gonna come out and try to play hard. A team like that is gonna make runs, and I think the key for us is gonna be to withstand those runs and make our runs. We can’t just let them keep punching us in the mouth. We’ve got to find a way to stop them.
Rick Jackson‘s a good player, and he’s coming at us tomorrow. They have five primary scorers, five guys you can’t take no days off on – you gotta know where they are at all times. They got five guys who can get 20 points a game. With Scoop [Jardine] being such a great passer, he gets everybody good looks. Kris Joseph is very versatile in terms of what he does and he can get to the rim and get a good shot on us, so you gotta watch out for guys like that. [Brandon] Triche has been playing extremely well and shooting the ball well. C.J. Fair is a real good freshman. They’re athletic, and they’re real strong as far as getting to the rack. Fab Melo has picked his game up as well. So when you can go to the bench with seven, eight guys like they do, it’s always gonna be tough to beat a team like that.
Sunday, we’re gonna do the same thing that we did Friday. Practice in the morning, film, shootaround, watch some more film, eat our team meal and get some rest in before the game.