When we last left the Marquette Warriors on their holy crusade through another undefeated regular season, Bob (Black Swan) Lackey was licking his wounded feathers from the South Carolina battle, Jim Chones was so busy sifting pro offers he nearly forgot how to play basketball, and Allie McGuire (see cover) was collapsing all over the place with every disease known to man except the heartbreak of psoriasis.
It has been that kind of year for Marquette. The team struggles to victory (five of their 19 straight wins have been by two or fewer points), the followers wonder why and, in the middle of it all, Allie McGuire, weak and pale from some mononucleosis here, a touch of hepatitis there, bears up. He is handsome, brave and reverent. The perfect model of Casabianca at the battle of the Nile about whom it was written:
The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled.
The flames rolled on; he would not go
Without his father's word.
More often than not, the word of his father and coach, Al, goes something like "Get da shoodah, Allie." Bellowed into the tense silence of the Milwaukee Arena, it is the older McGuire's way of harassing an opposing player about to take a free throw. Minnesota's Jim Brewer heard "Get da shoodah, Allie" at the top of his shot early this season and never reached the rim. Mostly, enemy shoodahs just flinch, laugh or miss conservatively.
In truth, Marquette opponents have not been missing often enough for the Warriors to take it easy. They have done so anyway—leaving their coach's boy to fight back the rolling flames alone. Against Marshall, Allie made two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to clinch a 74-72 win. Against Detroit he drove for a short jump shot with five seconds to go, and Marquette won 68-66. And against South Carolina he made two foul shots with 1:15 left. His points held up for a 72-71 victory while Allie sat on the bench, faint, dizzy and crying from a mysterious hyperventilation problem that messes up his oxygen intake and forces him to breathe into a paper bag for relief. When Allie McGuire seals a Marquette game, it is always a "breathless" victory.
For a team that has been so used to winning so often—53 consecutive regular-season games, 69 straight in the Arena—the Warriors have gone along this year as if they hoped to lose a whole bunch and prove that their much-maligned schedule is no joke. Close inspection of their list of opponents, however, shows that the team has no apologizing to do. The Warriors have played six schools with a combined record of 91-26. Before the season ends, they will have met as many as nine teams that might play in postseason tournaments.
Still, statistics give the Warriors' bumbling, stumbling record away. In one stretch of several games they shot over 40% just once. They have been outrebounded and outshot six times and outhustled more than that. A bothersome inability to play as a team, to mesh, to concentrate and get down to business, has plagued them to the extent that doubters seriously question their capacity to challenge UCLA.
Recently, in fact, Marquette put six miserable games together before breaking out of the slump with a decisive victory at DePaul, where young McGuire scored 20 points. Then last week the team savaged Xavier 89-59 and Air Force 79-56 to get it back together.
There were several reasons for the temporary demise. After the South Carolina game, Marquette's imposing front line went soft on the offensive boards. Lackey, having sustained a three-stitch cut and a bruise over his eye (the Swan had a mouse), especially bore the wrath of his coach, who began calling him "Three Stitch." Chones, meanwhile, has grown restive in college over what he says is a "candy game."
"I have pride and ability," Chones said last week, "but I can't show it because of fouls. When I get bumped and bump back, I get childish calls. Are the refs watching me because of my name? I know I can beat anybody one-on-one, and block shots like nobody has blocked them. But I never get the chance. I can't take any more of this. All I want is out."