MICHIGAN CITY — It took a while for Michigan City to ramp up to top speed Saturday against Marquette.
The Blazers were able to dictate the pace, keeping the Wolves from shaking loose their transition game into the third quarter, managing to stay even on the scoreboard in the process.
"They knew what they had to do and I thought they did it pretty well," City coach Tom Wells said. "They stayed under control for a long, long time."
Up just three beyond the midway point of the third quarter, M.C. hit the turbo boost, outscoring Marquette 42-16 the rest of the way to turn a tight battle into an 85-56 blowout.
"We shot it poorly the first half," said Wells, whose club nursed a 28-23 edge at the break. "We had too many turnovers. We talked at halftime, let's play this inside a little more. I don't know what the magic is, but there's something about getting the ball inside, now all those 3 balls start going in. When defense leads to offense, the spurt-ability factor is pretty high."
The margin was 11 (54-43) after three quarters and City erupted for 32 points in the fourth, turning the game into a track meet of alley oops and dunks. Warren Sails and Jalen Bullock both threw down lobs to energize the crowd, which was also got a kick out of a Bullock jam that ricocheted high into the air off the back rim.
"They can be very impulsive," Wells said. "It's not a boxing match where you come out and take one swing and it's over.We're trying to get them to understand it's 32 minutes of energy, beginning to end. I think that's what you saw. Our depth is really, really good. It's fun to be able to come out and play what we call our standard man-to-man and see if we can get any momentum, then as soon as we feel it, turn the crank, and it's boom."
Boom is right. Feeling good about itself for about 20 minutes of basketball, Marquette was left wondering what category tornado it was that hit them.
"We knew what they were capable of with their athleticism and how deep their bench is," Blazers coach Fred Mooney said. "I don't know if we hit a wall. I felt like for three quarters, we played a heck of a game, then we kind of hung our heads. Maybe fatigue was the issue. We still have to get back on defense. We've preached that and will continue to until the cows come home. If we hit a couple shots, it changes everything. We lost our spots, lost our focus, we got out of our rhythm and they got into theirs, and it's Katie bar the door. It was piranhas in bloody water, they smelled that and the attack was on. The score didn't tell the story of the game."
Volume was once again on City's side as Marquette's 21 turnovers and the Wolves' dominance on the glass created a whopping shot differential of plus-27 for the home team.
"Our bigs have just got to slow down a little bit," Wells said. "They catch it, the game speeds up really quick. Put it under your chin, make your reads, then go play, either pass it out of double teams, score or get fouled."
Freshman Jamie Hodges, Jr. scored 20 points to lead all scorers. Tahari Watson was lethal from the arc again, drilling four among his 15 points. Dez'Mand Hawkins notched 13 and Evan Bush 12, eight of them coming in a bunch in the third quarter to help ignite the breakout.
"It's going to be a night-to-night thing," Wells said of the scoring. "I love our unselfishness. When they don't care where it comes from, there are a lot of possibilities, and it's going to be hard to guard. We haven't even seen Evan's best yet. He's one of our better athletes, one of our better players. He's just learning how to play with a motor."
Sophomore Brit Harris topped Marquette with 19 points. Jake Tarnow managed 15 after drawing two fouls in the first 4:45. Freshman Gary Lewis scored 11. Already thin in numbers, the Blazers were left short-handed after Jon Allen left in the first minute of the game when his knee pop. Jason Kobe left for a stretch to be checked for a concussion before returning.
"Jon's our most athletic kid," Mooney said. "We could have used him. We're not very deep, so it hurts when you take two pieces out of the starting lineup."
Michigan City 85, Marquette 56
Wolves freshman Jamie Hodges, Jr. scored 20 points.