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StatWatch: Marquette vs Northern Illinois

The Golden Eagles were awful on the defensive glass, but they didn’t pay for it.

Marquette men’s basketball
Nice to see the new guys flocking to rebounds.
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Welcome back to StatWatch, the best ongoing feature in the country that talks about whatever random Marquette stats that we want to talk about.

Here’s the Four Factors from the game against Northern Illinois.

Northern Illinois Four Factors

Marquette Category Northern Illinois
Marquette Category Northern Illinois
49.2% eFG% 40.9%
15.3% TO Rate 25.0%
34.1% Off. Reb. Rate 45.9%
30.3% FT Rate 60.0%
1.10 Points/possession 0.97

We have to talk about the defense.

According to KenPom, Monday night was Marquette’s 2nd best points per possession defense of the season, trailing only the opener against Mount St. Mary’s. Because MSM is rated lower than NIU, you could make an argument that it was actually MU’s best performance of the season.

It was just the third time this season that the Golden Eagles held their opponent’s effective field goal percentage below 50%, the fourth time MU forced a turnover rate over 20% (and it was the highest one of the season, by the way), and just the fourth time that Marquette limited their foe’s two-point shooting to under 50%. It would be the fifth time as well as the third straight game, but Vermont landed on exactly 50%.

I know, I know, I know. It’s pretty fair to say “yeah, but it’s Northern Illinois, Marquette is supposed to be good on defense against a team in the 240s on KenPom.” On the flip side, Marquette let Mount St. Mary’s (#298) and Eastern Illinois (#227) go wild on two-pointers, so when the squad gets that issue turned around, we have to point it out and say “yes, do that again, please.”

We should also point out that only two guys played well on offense for Northern Illinois. Eugene German threw together a 56% eFG% night while taking nearly twice as many shots as anyone else on the team, and Dante Thorpe made six of his nine shots inside the arc. The rest of the team was a combined 6-for-27 (22%) from the field. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t have a problem with a game plan of “yeah, that guy/those two guys are allowed to go nuts, but no one else does squat.” On most nights, Marquette is going to be able outshoot a team that has only one, maybe two guys doing all of the scoring work.

For the record, right now, on Wednesday morning when I write this, Marquette is ranked #156 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. They finished last year at #165. If this is a sign of a positive trend for the MU defense, and they can raise that ranking up into the 140s or 130s even..... well, that would be a pretty good sign for how busy Marquette will be in March.

The defensive rebounding was awful, but it didn’t affect the scoring margin of the game.

Yeah, you’ll notice how I didn’t mention MU’s efforts on the defensive glass in the previous part. I’m not going to try and sell you on the idea that a mediocre rebounding team like Marquette (#182 in Offensive Rebound Rate, #251 in Defensive Rebound Rate) allowing Northern Illinois to get to 46% of their missed shots was some kind of outstanding achievement. It clearly wasn’t, and in fact, it was MU’s worst performance on the defensive glass this season.

It also wasn’t the reason why this game was close. That item lands directly on MU’s 30% three-point shooting.

NIU’s offensive rebounding didn’t affect Marquette because the Huskies didn’t put the ball in the net after they grabbed a miss. They scored just 10 second chance points in this game on 17 offensive rebounds.

Here’s the end of every single possession where Northern Illinois got an offensive rebound:

  • Lacey James turnover
  • Harry Froling rebound
  • Anastasios Demogerontas tip-in
  • Matt Heldt block/Sam Hauser rebound
  • Two Levi Bradley free throws
  • ???
  • Eugene German three-pointer
  • Justin Thomas loose ball foul
  • Dante Thorpe turnover
  • Split free throws by Gairges Daow
  • Two Noah McCarty free throws
  • Greg Elliott rebound

I had to tag that one in the middle as a bunch of question marks because this is what the play-by-play looks like:

Theo John’s block on Dante Thorpe goes out of bounds, so that’s the team offensive rebound. Levi Bradley misses a shot six seconds later, and NIU gets a series of attempted tip-ins and ends up with three more offensive rebounds as a result. And then there’s a stoppage and the next shot that’s recorded is a Sacar Anim layup attempt. No mark of how the possession ended nor how Marquette ended up with the ball. This tweet was part of a conversation with our own Pistol Brad as he tried to figure out why NIU got the ball to start the second half. He was rewatching the game and says that there was a jumpball that went to NIU then an offensive foul on Levi Bradley that forced the ball over to Marquette. I have no idea what to call that, and apparently the official scorer didn’t either, as Bradley didn’t even get issued the foul.

ANYWAY

I count one tip-in (whatever, those happen coming off of missed shots, and if I recall correctly, I thought that Froling accidentally batted it in from my angle), one actual regular shot as part of resetting the offense (the German three), and a bunch of free throws for NIU’s offensive production after getting an offensive rebound. Given the fact that there was 47 fouls called in the game, I’m not even really concerned with the free throws. The point here is that Marquette did an excellent job of denying the Huskies a chance to score after grabbing one of their own misses. Two turnovers and a block in 12 possessions? Fine by me.

Conversely, Marquette had 17 second chance points on 14 offensive rebounds. I think we’ll all be okay if the Golden Eagles replicate that kind of production on a regular basis.