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Marquette Basketball And Second Half Communication Breakdowns

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Hey, Wojo’s the one that brought it up, guys.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Butler Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

On last week Thursday’s edition of The Marquette Basketball Hour/The Steve Wojciechowski Show on 540 ESPN Milwaukee, the MU head coach brought up the issue of communication amongst his players. Specifically, Wojo brought it up to talk about a lack of it in the second half while they’re playing defense.

Here’s his exact words on the topic:

The layups that we gave up were largely a result of poor communication and it’s been something that we’ve dealt with a number of times this season where when our defense is not in front of our bench — in the first half, our defense is in front of our bench and we’re able as a staff to almost talk our guys through a defensive possession and recognize patterns and recognize sets. Our defense generally in the first half has been better. In the second half, when our defense is away from our bench, the communication defensively has been much worse and the breakdowns in our defense a lot of times... some of it is effort and lot of it is communication because teams are running multiple actions and in order to stop those you all have to be on the same page and the way you’re on the same page is great communication.

Steve “The Homer” True got clarification from Wojo that all he means is that the players need to talk to each other on the floor.

You have to talk. In order to be on the same page defensively, there’s gotta be communication and communication that is happening at a rapid pace. It’s instant decisions and communication and we’ve got to get a lot better at that.

He had this to say to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the same topic:

After watching Monday’s film, Wojciechowski cited a lack of effort, especially at the beginning of the second half, as a major problem for his team on defense. He also noticed a drop-off in communication, which has been an issue multiple times.

“Our communication defensively is generally much better in the first half when they're in front of our bench and generally not as good when they're away from our bench,” Wojciechowski said. “The halves where we haven't played well defensively, the vast majority of those have occurred when the defense is away from our bench."

Communication will be especially difficult at CenturyLink Center, where 18,000-plus pack the arena almost every time the Bluejays play.

"Those guys need to talk and communicate on the court,” Wojciechowski said. “Defense favors the continuous thinker, continuous effort, multiple-effort plays and guys playing together. The way you get a defense to play as one is through the communication aspect.”

With that being the case, especially after Marquette beat #7 Creighton Saturday but still let the Bluejays shoot the ball crazy great in the second half, it’s time to dig into the numbers. We’ve seen Marquette have massive defensive problems in the second half in league play: specifically against Seton Hall, Villanova, and Butler, but how bad is it?

What follows is a Four Factors breakdown of Marquette’s defensive play in their seven Big East games so far. First half numbers on the left, season long averages in the middle, second half numbers on the right. It’s not technically one of the Factors, but we’ll toss in points per possession in there, too. For the record, the second half numbers also include the overtime session against Seton Hall.

Defense First Half Season Average Second Half
Defense First Half Season Average Second Half
Effective FG% 49.0% 51.5% 60.5%
Turnover Rate 21.1% 19.8% 15.6%
Off. Rebound Rate 33.1% 29.0% 37.6%
Free Throw Rate 25.9% 36.5% 46.4%
Points/Possession 1.01 1.03 1.26

WELP, that’s bad. Shooting up, turnovers down, rebounding up from an already ugly number and waaaaay too many free throws. Think about this: teams are making more shots in the second half against Marquette AND getting more of their missed shots. That’s a double whammy of a problem when it comes to points per possession. The defense in the first half is merely passable at 1.01 points per possession, but with Marquette’s offense activating at such a high level, “merely passable” should be enough to make MU an NCAA tournament team. That’s not happening after halftime in Big East play.

While we’re at it, what’s going on with Marquette’s offense? With the defense in front of the bench in the first half, that means the offense is getting that close-up coaching in the second half. Are we seeing a benefit from that on offense?

Offense First Half Season Average Second Half
Offense First Half Season Average Second Half
Effective FG% 63.3% 57.9% 53.0%
Turnover Rate 17.3% 16.8% 17.5%
Off. Rebound Rate 25.2% 28.1% 35.0%
FT Rate 10.9% 30.9% 50.0%
Points/Posssession 1.20 1.17 1.16

Apparently not, huh? I mean, none of this is terrible news, since the efficiency is roughly the season average and the turnovers are about the same in the first half. It is a little weird that shooting is down when the coaching staff might be able to lend a hand at pointing out a mismatch or an open man. I’m fascinated by the massive boost to offensive rebounding and free throw rate, as they’re clearly doing a lot of heavy lifting to keep the offense chugging along at the season long points per possession mark.

Marquette is faced with the unique task of fixing all of this while tangling with the #1 team in the country on Tuesday night. It’s probably not going to be an immediate fix, but hopefully we can see a trend towards the positive against Villanova.