|No. 17 Marquette looks toward Fitzgerald to man the middle|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 28 January 2008 16:27|
The 6-foot-9 forward is the Golden Eagles' latest man in the paint as they search for another presence down low after being outrebounded in six consecutive games.
For Fitzgerald, it's nothing new.
``Since I've been here I've been changing positions. When I sat out a whole year, I played point guard and practiced against Travis Diener every day. That helped me out tremendously,'' said Fitzgerald, who transferred from Tulane in 2004. ``My role changes every year, but I'm just happy to be out there. Whenever anybody's name is called, you've got to be ready to do whatever is needed.''
That's because Marquette (14-4, 4-3 Big East) has yet to figure two things - how to get consistent production inside and how to win on the road.
Ousmane Barro, Dwight Burke and Lawrence Blackledge have all spent time playing center, but none of the three have excelled in Marquette's guard-oriented offense, averaging a combined nine points and nine rebounds this season.
In steps Fitzgerald.
He's a career 41.7 percent 3-point shooter and not a big, banging body, but he'll have to adjust quickly against South Florida (10-10, 1-6) on Tuesday night.
That's because he'll match up with 6-9 center Kentrell Gransberry, who appears a few pounds heavier than the listed 270 that gives him a 50-pound advantage on Fitzgerald.
Gransberry is averaging 17.1 points and 10.8 rebounds for the Bulls.
``The quickness and speed that he plays with is I think what really separates him and makes him such a legitimate draft pick at the next level,'' Marquette coach Tom Crean said.
At least Fitzgerald already has the wounds to prove he'll play in the paint after being knocked around a few days ago.
``Somebody told me, 'You look pretty ugly' after practice,'' said Fitzgerald, who isn't sure how he got the shiner. ``But, it's part of the job.''
And one that didn't earn him any sympathy from his teammates.
``They were laughing. I'll get them back,'' he quipped.
Point guard Dominic James said Fitzgerald takes everything in stride.
``Dan is asked to do a lot of different things, especially with his shooting,'' James said. ``Now we're asking him to be a defender and guard down low and things like that as we're trying to still run up and down the floor.''
James, playing through a sprained right wrist, came out of a deep shooting slump in Marquette's 79-71 win over DePaul on Saturday night by going 7-of-11 from the field as the Golden Eagles improved to 11-0 at home.
``We can't allow any team coming in here, regardless of what the record says, get a win,'' James said. ``We've got to protect our home court and we're trying to get on a roll ourselves.''
James said the wrist isn't bothering him anymore, even though he acknowledged he was ``nursing'' it the first few games after he fell hard after a flagrant foul against Seton Hall on Jan. 8.
James said he shunned a cortisone shot, and even aspirin.
``I'm not even big on medication. I'm just out there playing, the adrenaline rush is good enough for me,'' he said.
While the rush of playing has helped James, it hasn't helped the Golden Eagles figure out how to win on the road in the Big East yet.
Crean said he's even talked about the New York Giants' 10 straight road wins in an effort to spur his team, which next heads to Cincinnati on Saturday.
``We've certainly referenced what they've done with winning 10 in a row on the road, showing different things that have been said about their team,'' said Crean, who is friends with Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
Crean said he thinks his Golden Eagles understand what's gone wrong, and it's a simple explanation.
``The bottom line is we just haven't played as well,'' he said. ``I think they're pretty smart to realize they haven't played up to their capabilities on the road.''