Head coach Steve Wojciechowski rolled with the same starting five from Saturday and it paid off on Tuesday night. Matt Heldt exploded for a career best 15 points and a career best 10 rebounds to be the heart and soul of a strong start-to-finish 93-71 victory over St. John’s. The Golden Eagles are now 17-10 on the year and 8-7 in Big East play.
Oh, wait, I’m sorry, I left something out: Matt Heldt connected on all six of his field goal attempts, too.
This totally happened.
Marquette has now won two straight games that they absolutely needed to get in order to feel comfortable about making the NCAA tournament as an at-large team before the Big East tournament starts. They still have three more games that easily qualify as “must-win” contests to make that comfort level a reality, but one thing at a time.
For a moment early in the game, it looked like the story of the game was going to be freshman Sam Hauser taking a run at matching or bettering what fellow frosh Markus Howard did on Saturday with nine made three-pointers. Hauser opened up the scoring for the game with his first three-pointer of the night, and he just kept right on going, hitting his first four attempts from the field. All of them were from long range, and the fourth one put MU up 18-12 at the 13:23 mark.
Marquette hitting three-pointers was a significant part of this game, with the Golden Eagles going 12-for-24 from behind the arc. Along the way, Andrew Rowsey drained a three in the second half that gave Marquette 275 treys on the season, snapping the team record for made three-point baskets in a season. As mentioned above, there are still three more regular season games left. This record is going be OBLITERATED when all is said and done.
Hauser got Marquette started, and his teammates picked up the slack after him. St. John’s got the next four points of the game, but MU bounced back with a 12-0 run that took nearly four minutes to turn a competitive two-point game into a 14 point lead. From our vantage point looking backwards, it was that 12-0 run that determined the game, as Marquette never led by fewer than 10 points the rest of the way.
That doesn’t mean that those 10 point trimdowns weren’t nervewracking, because they were. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t horrifying to look up at the eight minute mark of the second half with Marquette using an 8-1 run to push the margin to 19, realize how deep into the fouls both teams were, and realize that it was going to be a long, strange trip to the final horn.
Thankfully, that feeling of dread never materialized into anything actually bad. The lead finally broke through the 20 point mark for good with 3:20 to go on a jumper by Hauser, and Marquette coasted easily to the win.
As great as Matt Heldt was (and he was really great), and as much as he deserves to start for the rest of the season, we can’t ignore what Luke Fischer did in this game. Yes, he fouled out in just 11 minutes. He also hit all three of his shots, grabbed up seven rebounds of his own, and got one block to tie Chris Otule for the fourth most swats in program history.
Hauser ended up with the high score for the day with 19 points, but he wasn’t alone in Double-Digit Town. Obviously Heldt got there as well, as did Rowsey (18), Katin Reinhardt (16), and Jajuan Johnson (11), who made his return to the floor for Marquette after sitting out the Xavier game with a DNP-Coach’s Decision. The senior from Memphis had an okay night, and he definitely made sure that Tariq Owens had a bad night.
WITH THE FOUL! #mubb @FS1 pic.twitter.com/dkJaBfAPK0— MarquetteMBB (@MarquetteMBB) February 22, 2017
Marquette’s defense had a pretty good night, holding SJU to just 40% shooting from the floor and just 27% from long range. They did give up a 21 point night to Bashir Ahmed, but Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett had to go a combined 9-for-24 in order to get their 31 points.
Up Next: Well, the must-win games get a little complicated. Marquette will be back in action on Saturday, when they travel out east to visit Providence. The Friars beat Marquette in Milwaukee back on January 28th, and it would certainly mean a lot for the Golden Eagles to pick up a road win and a revenge win all in one go.