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Marquette vs Vermont: Three Things We Learned

Markus Howard: Good. Andrew Rowsey: Good. Defense: ..... signs of hope?

Marquette men’s basketball
Marquette can win a lot of games with performances like the ones they got from Markus Howard & Andrew Rowsey.
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#1 - Markus Howard is back to being Markus Howard.

Way back in April, I put together an article explaining that it was unlikely for Marquette sophomore guard Markus Howard to shoot 55% on three-pointers like he did as a freshman. The other part of that article was that even if he comes back to earth from those amazing numbers, Howard still would have a shot at breaking Steve Novak’s records for three-pointers attempted and three-pointers made in a season.

And then he opened up the 2017-18 season shooting 15-of-49 on triples. That’s just 30.6%. Hey, I said it was okay if he came back to earth, I did not say it would be okay if he started drilling down to the core.

Thankfully, no one got particularly worried about Howard over that opening stretch, largely because Marquette won the games they were supposed to win and were competitive against Purdue and Wichita State, two teams that are likely to make waves in their respective conferences’ title races.

Well, I’d like to let you know that Markus Howard has snapped back into his form from the end of last season. Across the last three games, Howard is shooting 21-of-38 on three-pointers. Guess what that shooting percentage is. Go ahead. Guess.

It’s 55%.

Even better than that, Howard has been doing it with incredible volume, averaging nearly 13 attempts from long range per game. It’s brought him up to 9.7 three-point attempts per game this season, which puts him on pace for 290 long range tries at the end of the regular season, well past Novak’s record of 259. If Howard holds steady at 41% from distance (his current mark), he’ll have 118 made threes, which is just three short of Novak’s single season record.

Somehow, I think that he might boost that shooting percentage between now and March, don’t you?

#2 - That was the Andrew Rowsey we need.

Marquette fans everywhere made a lot of noise — and for good reason -- about how Andrew Rowsey played on Saturday against Georgia. Between his shooting and and his turnovers, it was not a good outing for the Virginia native.

That was noticed by the fans, and it was noticed by the Marquette coaching staff as well. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that head coach Steve Wojciechowski and his assistants had more criticisms of Rowsey’s play than those of us watching from the stands and on television had.

Tuesday’s outing against Vermont was a completely different Andrew Rowsey. In 33 minutes off the bench, Rowsey shot 44% from the field and 43% from long range on his way to contributing 13 points to the box score. He also grabbed three rebounds, snagged a steal, and dished a career high 10 assists to give him his first career double-double. Oh, yeah, and he also only committed one turnover.

The 10 assists are probably not coming on a regular basis. That’s a lot of assists. But Marquette will need Rowsey to play with the mindset that he had that got him there on a regular basis as this season progresses. Smart shots, smart passes, smart decisions all around.

#3 - Marquette’s defense is struggling overall, but I think they’re executing gameplans well.

Ok, look.

I am not trying to claim that Wojo and the staff gameplanned to allow Vermont to score 1.14 points per possession, nor did they want the Catamounts to shoot 45% from behind the arc.

I am trying to claim that they constructed a defensive gameplan to eliminate the threats of Trae Bell-Haynes and Anthony Lamb AND that said gameplan worked.

Bell-Haynes and Lamb shot a combined 8-of-22 (36%) from the field and 0-for-7 from three-point land.

This came one game after holding SEC Preseason Co-Player of the Year Yante Maten to just 13 points. Earlier this season, Marquette successfully took away every LSU scorer except for Tremont Waters on their way to a win over the Tigers. Against Wichita State, Marquette limited Shaquille Morris, their leading scorer, to just 11 points. VCU’s top two scorers were held below their season averages. Dakota Mathias and Vincent Edwards, averaging 29 points together this season, scored just 20 together for Purdue against the Golden Eagles.

I am not going to succeed in convincing you that Marquette has been playing good defense this season. No one in their right mind is going to try that, much less believe that. What I am trying to to do is convince you that the coaching staff is coming up with a plan to defend each opponent and that plan is, for the most part, successful.

The problems start popping up when, for example, Stef Smith connects on all six of his long range attempts like he did for the Catamounts last night. The 6’1” freshman had played double digit minutes just twice this season before last night, and one of those times was against a non-Division 1 team. He was shooting 5-of-11 on threes in seven games against Division 1 opponents and 5-of-16 overall. Is anyone really faulting MU’s staff for ignoring him on the scouting report??

By the way, other than Smith, Vermont shot just 30% on threes. Take out Smith’s six possessions of raining threes, and MU allowed just 63 points on 65 possessions.

Is it essentially gambling by the Marquette coaches? Yeah, it is. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re depending on three freshman and a little used redshirt sophomore to provide defense on a team that had almost no defense worth mentioning last year. I choose to believe that the gameplans are working and hopefully soon, the defense will get better with the new guys getting their legs under them and the other gaps will start getting closed.