Fouls, turnovers, and a poor shooting afternoon combined to send Marquette to a 73-66 loss to Georgia at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon. Marquette is now 5-3 on the season, with two very tough non-conference games coming up in the next seven days.
While the game was tied at 31 at halftime, it is entirely possible that the entirety of Marquette’s game plan went out the window just 44 seconds into the contest. Markus Howard picked up his second foul with 19:16 remaining before halftime, and Andrew Rowsey popped off the bench to relieve him.
This had a double-whammy effect on the Golden Eagles. First is the fact that head coach Steve Wojciechowski elected to remove Rowsey from the starting lineup and replace him with freshman Greg Elliott. Whatever Wojo’s point was in that decision, it was now moot. Rowsey was now the ballhandling focus of the offense for the majority of the first half, as Howard would sit out until there were less than seven minutes remaining. By that point, Georgia had built an eight point lead.
Howard played just seven minutes in the first half, but scored eight points and dished an assist. Rowsey, on the other hand, freed from the penalty box of the bench, committed three turnovers before he even attempted a shot, and then missed his first seven shots. Not coincidentally, Howard subbed back in after the seventh shot. Again, whatever message Wojo was trying to send by bringing Rowsey off the bench, it was not received in any form or fashion.
With Howard back in the game, Marquette rebounded to take a lead, coincidentally on a three-pointer from Rowsey, with 63 seconds left in the half, but Howard committed his third foul of the game digging down on Yante Maten with 42 seconds left in the half, and a triple from Nicolas Claxton sent everyone to the locker room knotted at 31.
No one was shooting the ball well through 20 minutes, which, given Marquette’s difficulties defending inside the arc this season, was actually kind of a positive for the Golden Eagles. However, in the second half, the Bulldogs shots 54% from the floor and 12-of-20 (60%) on two pointers. Marquette probably could have survived this, but the Golden Eagles went 5-of-14 (36%) from long distance after the break, and with a team designed to win by shooting the ball well, improving from 32% in the first half was not good enough to keep pace with Georgia.
That third foul from Howard didn’t help the dynamics of the team in the second half, as the sophomore from Arizona started out on the bench and stayed there for the first seven minutes until Georgia had gone up by five. Things stayed close for a little while, and a triple by Howard even put Marquette up two with 7:40 left to go.
Whatever hope for Marquette in the game may have evaporated with less than six minutes to play, when Andrew Rowsey committed turnovers on back to back possessions while Marquette held a one point lead. Marquette had a chance to slam the door on the Bulldogs, and Rowsey losing control of the ball while thrashing his way into the lane on consecutive plays let Georgia breathe a bit. They only got one basket out of the two possessions, but that was enough to jumpstart a tiny 6-0 run to build a five point margin and that was enough space to hold on for the win.
Rowsey finished with 15 points on 4-of-15 shooting, three rebounds, six assists, a block, a steal, and a game high six turnovers. Marquette had just 12 turnovers as a team.
We have to highlight one thing that Marquette did well, and that’s defend Yante Maten. The Georgia big man went for 26 points down in Athens last year against the Golden Eagles, and he was held to just 13 points on eight shots in this game, although the 13 was good enough to lead Mark Fox’s squad in scoring. When Maten had the ball in situations to score, he usually did, shooting 5-of-8 in the game. Marquette made it a point of emphasis to not let the 6’8” Michigan native beat them in this game, and they did a pretty good job of it. Credit where credit is due.
Player of the Game: Oh, it’s absolutely Markus Howard, who fought off his fouls in the first half to finish with 29 points in 20 minutes. You’re never going to believe it, but a refereeing crew that included James Breeding did not whistle the MU star guard with a single foul in the second half. He did a lot of his work with his floater, shooting 7-of-10 inside the arc, and added three rebounds and an assist.
Play of the Game: I probably have to give it to Howard’s and-1 three-pointer at the 3:31 mark of the first half. Less than 60 seconds earlier, William Jackson had scored to put Georgia up eight. After a Jamal Cain layup and a missed freebie by Jordan Harris, Howard drew a foul from Harris on the other end while connecting from long range. Howard’s usually confident free throw stroke came in handy, and suddenly MU was down just two late in the first half. It was a big play at a big moment for Marquette, unfortunately, Howard just didn’t get a chance to provide the team with more.
Up Next: Things do not get easier for Marquette even though they’ll be staying in Milwaukee. Vermont comes to town on Tuesday night, and the Catamounts are no joke. They are currently 6-1 on the season with only a narrow season opening loss at Kentucky marring their resume. Their loss to the Wildcats is just the second time that UVM has dropped a game since Christmas 2016, and they will have their eyes on bringing home a massive non-conference victory.