#1 - Markus Howard may be a reader of this website.
On Wednesday morning, this fine internet website published the post-Georgetown edition of the very popular “Three Things We Learned” series. Item #1 in that article was a discussion of the struggles by Marquette guard Markus Howard over the previous four games. It wasn’t just his shooting woes that were a concern, but also his proclivity towards turning the ball over, and the pair together over a four game span were trending towards a problem.
Well, whatever micro-slump (TM Real Chilly Podcast) that Howard was in, he’s out of it now. It’s almost as if before the game, he read an article that pointed out his struggles as of late and then did everything in his power to correct whatever was causing him difficulty. I don’t want to take credit for Howard blasting off for a shooting line of 58/58/100 against Providence, as well as only coughing the ball up a perfectly reasonable two times, but the timing is quite fascinating, don’t you think?
#2 - Steve Wojciechowski may be better at this coaching thing than some people would like to give him credit.
Two of Marquette’s starters had two fouls at the midway point of the first half. One of them picked up his third foul with 3:12 left in the half. Another starter got his second foul with 5:58 left in the half. Harry Froling snagged three fouls in five minutes of action in the first half.
Sacar Anim, generally regarded as Marquette’s most important defensive player, fouled out with 10 minutes left in regulation having played just three minutes in the second half and nine minutes overall. Matt Heldt played just 10 minutes in the second half and fouled out with 3:08 left in overtime and Marquette up just three. Greg Elliott racked up five fouls after getting to the 8:54 mark of the second half without acquiring a single one. With Elliott departing at the 1:54 mark of overtime, Marquette was left with a three point lead and six scholarship players to close out the Friars in their own building.
And they did just that.
Say whatever you want about Marquette’s struggles on defense over the past two seasons. They’re all likely true and fair opinions and at the end of the day, the buck stops with Wojo on why Marquette hasn’t been able to balance amazing offense with even passable defense. Facts are facts: Steve Wojciechowski’s roster and rotation management got thrown all kinds of out of whack against Providence, and he masterfully managed his lineups to maximize what he had available to him as the game progressed and pull off a win that Marquette desperately needed to get. It’s not just that MU needed the road victory over a quality foe to aim themselves towards the NCAA tournament, it’s that the Golden Eagles could not afford to let Markus Howard’s fireball of a performance go to waste.
Think about it: Would there be an amazing outpouring of attention for the super soph if Marquette had lost in regulation or even in overtime? Probably not. You’re only going to get a game like that once every generation or so, and you can not let it end up playing out in a loss. Wojo didn’t let that happen.
#3 - It won’t get remembered as such, but this win was almost as unlikely as the upset of #1 Villanova last year.
Last year’s 74-72 upset of #1 Villanova will get remembered for a long, long time as one of the most unlikely victories in Marquette history. It’s not that MU was only given a 30% chance of victory at tipoff according to KenPom, it’s that the Golden Eagles were trailing by 17 with 19 minutes to play, and by 13 with a shade over five minutes to play.
At that point, when Luke Fischer missed a pair of freebies, Marquette was down to a 1.1% chance of victory. Still pulled it off though.
The difference here is the time involved. If I ask you “can a team make a 13 point comeback in five minutes,” you’d say, yeah, it’s hard, but sure, they can do it. Last night, Marquette’s chance of victory dropped to 3.1% when Kyron Cartwright hit a pair of free throws to put PC up 79-73 with 1:17 to play. Obviously, a 3.1% chance is better than a 1.1% chance, and you’d want that every single time. I just can’t shake the feeling that making up 13 points in five minutes and change seems waaaaaaaaay easier than wiping out six points in just 77 seconds. Perhaps the difference is that Marquette only needed to draw even with the Friars in 77 seconds to force overtime, while against Villanova, they actually outscored them by 15 in the end stages, which does add a certain degree of difficulty to the proceedings.