Faced with the prospect of playing a ranked team four times in the next seven games, Wednesday night’s Big East opener against Georgetown was pretty crucial for YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles.
Thankfully, they came away with the 77-67 victory against the Hoyas of Georgetown, and head coach Steve Wojciechowski has now won a conference opener for the first time as MU’s head coach.
Markus Howard and Jajuan Johnson competed for the title of Most Electrifying Man In Blue & Gold on this night, with Howard getting the points edge in the battle, 23 to 20. Howard got Marquette going early, hitting two three pointers as the Golden Eagles opened the game on an 11-0 run. The lead would balloon to 14 when an Andrew Rowsey triple made it 16-2, but you knew the Hoyas had a little something in them. It took them more than seven minutes of game clock, but eventually it was all knotted at 26 after a trey from Tre Campbell.
Marquette responded with a 7-0 run capped by another three from Rowsey, and while Georgetown would trim the lead back to just one, it went back to seven at halftime when Marcus Derrickson committed maybe the stupidest loose ball foul I’ve ever seen. Rodney Pryor missed a three with four seconds left, right? Derrickson controls the miss, gets it to Jessie Govan, who shoots and misses with three seconds left. That miss bounces towards the Marquette bench, and with 0.1 seconds left on the clock, Derrickson is whistled for fouling Sam Hauser. 15 feet away from the basket. With less than a second left. You weren’t going to get a shot off, dude, and neither was Hauser.
Marquette jumped on the Hoyas to open the second half, starting things off with an 8-2 spurt to push the lead to 13 on, again, a three pointer from Rowsey. From there, the game seemed to equalize. Marquette never led by more than 14, but Georgetown never got it closer than 10, which is what happened on a Pryor jumper with 9:52 left.
That’s when Jajuan Johnson decided to tear the house down.
First it was Johnson slamming it home after Hauser hit him like a wide receiver on a go route, then Johnson made his own magic, tipping it away, recovering before it went out of bounds, and then dunking it once again. Two dunks, 13 seconds apart, Marquette was up 14, and the Bradley Center was coming unglued.
By the way, I didn’t even mention the alley-oop break up that Johnson early in the game, nor this dunk that he threw down in the first half.
Things slowed way, way down after that as the Hoyas started applying some full court pressure. Here’s the thing though, and Paint Touches pointed this out: The press might have actually helped Marquette. The Golden Eagles stood around in the backcourt a lot making smart decisions with the basketball. The clock just kept burning away while they were doing it. The Hoyas weren’t trapping or trying to force turnovers, just make things awkward for Marquette.
What they got was trailing by 15 with 7:36 left when Hauser hit his only made three of the game, and it took them more than four minutes of game clock time to merely drag the lead down to just eight. Sure, there were more than three minutes left at that point, but Marquette didn’t shoot themselves in the foot and Georgetown couldn’t get it any closer. MU got the next bucket, a layup from Howard, Govan tipped in a missed three from Derrickson, Howard tacked on two freebies and that was that. Georgetown couldn’t even execute a “HEY ONLY LOST BY EIGHT” bucket after MU took a shot clock violation instead of shooting with four seconds left, as GU’s attempt came long after the buzzer.
Howard, who you’ll remember is only 17 years old and graduated from high school a year early, tied for the game high with Pryor with 23, and Howard also tacked on two rebounds, two assists, and two steals in a foul hampered 21 minutes. Johnson had 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, and fell just one steal shy of the quad nickel.
The only bad news was Duane Wilson leaving the game with a groin injury. I seem to recall Wilson having an awkward fall against either St. Francis or SIUE, but he returned to play in whichever game it was. He started off this game on the stationary bike on the sideline, so it’s not too surprising that he re-aggravated the injury. His absence was particularly felt in this game as Markus Howard picked up his fourth foul with 7:58 left to play after Andrew Rowsey picked up his four with over 10 minutes left and eventually fouled out with over three to play.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Fox Sports?
Up Next: That’s it for 2016, as Marquette’s next game is on New Year’s Day. They’ll be in Jersey to tangle with Seton Hall. The Pirates are 0-1 in league play after losing 89-75 at Creighton Wednesday night.