Whew! I’m still catching my breath from that one. Maybe it was the early start (9:30 a.m. in Hawaii), but both Marquette and VCU came out guns a-blazin’ on Monday to kick off the Maui Invitational. Marquette’s guns were blazing a little brighter.
Marquette moved on in the winner’s bracket, taking out the Rams by a score of 94-83. Markus Howard led Marquette and all scorers with 22, joined in the 20s by his compatriots Sam Hauser and Andrew Rowsey (20 each).
Marquette got down early by a score of 10-3, but used a 12-0 run to get out of the hole and only trailed for a total of 21 seconds after that. They went to the break leading 45-44 largely because of the role players stepping up. Haanif Cheatham had 10 of his 13 points in the first half and did a great job on the defensive end, and the newcomers (plus Sacar Anim) were disruptive defense and energetic on offense when the four were out on the floor together with Howard. Theo John, in particular, looked really good on both ends. He had a couple of nice dunks for 4 of his 6 points, and was tough on the glass, pulling down 6 rebounds. He fouled out with just under 4 minutes, but two of his fouls were on screens. He was tough, active and he played within himself for the most part. Certainly, his best performance for the Golden Eagles thus far.
The second half was much more on-brand for Marquette than the first. They were 5-15 from behind the arc in the first half, and only 8-21 in the second, but they missed the first four before finishing 8-17. This was due largely in part to Markus Howard finding his rhythm, as he couldn’t buy one in the first 20 minutes. This is why Howard is so important to Marquette. When he’s feelin’ it, he’s feelin’ it, and that opens things up for everyone else. Plus, more than anyone else on the team, his offensive success is infectious. More on Howard in a minute. Everyone felt sharper in the second half. Hauser was much more effective (6-10 from the floor, 3-6 from deep), the offensive boards were plentiful (8 in the second half that led to 12 points) and the ball was zipping around the court. Very fun stuff!
Matt Heldt finished with four fouls, so again the foul trouble is cause for worry inside if it’s going to be an every-game occurrence. Part of this was because of the pace of the game, since they were pretty significantly slower than VCU’s bigs (who weren’t that big). I didn’t love the quick tempo for Marquette, as it caused a lot of turnovers early (10 in the first half, 7 in the second) before they could settle down, but the uptick in possessions proved beneficial this time as Marquette was 34-66 from the floor. More possessions and more made shots equals a win, what a concept. As for VCU’s press, I think Rowsey handled it really well, despite slipping on the court a couple of times. He was able to get around the two VCU players pressuring him fairly easily, and made smart passes when they went to a full-court press late in the game. For as wild as the game was, I was never too upset with how Marquette was handling the ball.
Because of the quick turnaround, a “Three Things We Learned” for this game probably won’t be coming in detail, so here’s a quick one:
1. The (new) kids can play!
2. Marquette can handle the press relatively well!
3. Three-pointers are good!
Yeah, that all checks out.
Play of the Game: OK, this was a biiiiiiit before the game so forgive me. At the end of the day, going to Maui will be a great memory for this team, and hopefully one they can enjoy. It seems like they’re having no trouble with that:
Player of the Game: Markus Howard! His first of the year. Howard finished with 22 points on 9-20 shooting (4-13 behind the three-point line), which is a fine slash line, but it was in the second half where he really pulled Marquette up by their bootstraps to win the game. He was just 2-8 in the first half but was all over the place on the court, finding the open man (he finished with 7 assists and only 1 turnover) and working the glass (6 boards). In the final 20 minutes, he was 7-12 (4-9) with all of his threes coming from the top of the key. Plus, his floater is becoming absolutely deadly. One of my favorite Howard performances ever, especially because of how he was able to affect the game when his shooting was off, and then how he turned his shooting on.
Up Next: Well, we don’t quite know. We know the game is going to be at 12:30pm Central time on Tuesday for sure. It will either be agianst #6 Wichita State or California, and as of right now, the Golden Bears are up 9 at the half on the Shockers.