#1 - Marquette’s early season shooting troubles seem to be over
To the surprise of many, Marquette Golden Eagles had not been shooting the ball nearly as well as anticipated. Last season as a team, Marquette shot nearly 43% from three. With the shots taken by Jajuan Johnson (38%) and Katin Reinhardt (37%) supposedly going to Markus Howard (57%) and Andrew Rowsey (45%), one would think this change in three-point allocation would lead to an increase in three point percentage. However, until Wednesday night, Marquette had ben shooting a paltry (by their own lofty standards) 38.2% from three. This is mainly because last year’s national three point percentage leader Markus Howard was shooting only 30.6% from three. That changed last night when Howard set a school record by making 11 threes, beating the previous record that he had tied last year by two. It’s great that Howard made a bunch of threes against Chicago State (which is as close to the Sisters of the Poor as the MU schedule gets this year), but the real thing to be excited about is that he, and the team, is shooting the ball better before the second tough period of the non-conference schedule begins.
#2 - Marquette’s defense showed some good moments but still needs lots of work
At halftime, I was thoroughly disappointed with the Marquette defensive effort. Giving up 40 points in a half to Chicago State is never acceptable. I understand that if we are shooting well, Chicago State will never beat us, but teams in the middle tier of the BIG EAST can, and those are the teams that Marquette needs to beat in order to make the NCAA tournament. I like that Marquette only gave up 29 points in the second half and pulled away handily, but how many times last year did Marquette lose a game playing OK defense in one half and giving up 50 or more points in the other half? The big difference in the second half seemed to be more ball pressure which didn't manage to turn Chicago State over too much but did get them out of their sets and resulted in less quality shots. Hopefully, head coach Steve Wojciechowski can learn from this and manage to work effective ball pressure into the defensive game plan (even if this does mean not playing the undersized Rowsey and Howard at the same time).
#3 - Cain and Elliott are gaining confidence
It has occurred to me that I can’t go 10 minutes without talking about Greg Elliott and how great of a glue guy he is, so rather than fighting my urges, I’m going to turn into the skid and embrace my newfound obsession. Rather than talking about the numbers that he and Jamal Cain put up (which were impressive: 17 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists combined), I would rather note how aggressive Jamal Cain and Greg Elliott (and to an extent, Theo John) were. With guys like Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard on the team, it is hard to justify freshmen shooting the ball yet both Cain and Elliott found their shots and took them comfortably. Both freshmen shot at least 50% and played within themselves on offense, especially Elliott who racked up 9 assists, many of which were in drive and kick scenarios. On defense, both are still learning how to stay in front of their man at the college level, but their superior athleticism and long wingspans allow for them to wipe away shots that would normally drop in easily.