That felt like every single game Marquette has played against Louisville, but without the buzzer beating loss. Clutch free throw shooting, suffocating defense (what?) and some Markus Howard cajones allowed Marquette to drag out a bloody corpse of a win in overtime against the Cards, 77-74. This was a desperately need win, too.
In the first half, the story was the lack of Markus Howard looks. Louisville took a page from Archie Miller and Bill Self’s playbooks (not to mention Chris Mack’s own knowledge of the MU sharpshooter) and made sure Khwan Fore and Christen Cunningham never left his sight. Howard finished the half with 4 shots, so Wojo had to look elsewhere for points. Marquette made a more concerted effort to get guards like Sacar Anim to drive to the basket and get bigs like Theo John post touches. They were trying to send a message to future opponents that hovering over Howard won’t work and that other options exist.
Turns out they don’t. The Golden Eagles finished the half 6/20 from inside the arc and looked lost without Howard. Marquette was only losing by single digits because of tough defense.
The second half featured more of the same and left the Marquette faithful to wonder if Wojo was ever going to find a way to get Howard touches. The only offense was coming from the occasional Jordan Nwora defensive lapse to leave Sam Hauser open for three.
The defense remained terrific against a Louisville offense that tore apart Tennessee just two nights ago. They kept Marquette in the game long enough for Wojo to finally make an adjustment on offense. With Howard at the top of the key, screens were no longer coming from The Brothers Hauser or another guard. Instead, they came from Theo John and Ed Morrow. Lousville’s defense no longer features athletic centers like Anas Mahmoud, Ray Spalding or Gorgui Dieng, so bringing Steven Enoch and Malik Williams out in the perimeter left subpar defenders guarding Howard and an open lane to the basket for John and Morrow to roll for an easy bucket.
Howard and Joey Hauser combined to score all of Marquette’s final 9 points in regulation and, after some fortunate bounces on Louisville tip ins, the game went into overtime.
From there Markus was able to find space to make a couple jumpers, clutch free throws were made, and Ed Morrow showed us why he was such a sought after transfer when he just ripped away a rebound from VJ King. Marquette pulled out the win.
The offense did just enough to win, but Louisville is not a good defensive team. Of the 6 high profile games on the Marquette schedule (Indiana, Kansas, L’ville, Wisconsin, K State, Buffalo) this was the second easiest game. It counts the same, but winning two of those next 3 games looks to be a daunting task for this team.
-Louisville was 20/49 (40.8%) from inside the arc. I’m not completely certain that the offense will be better than the defense by the end of the year, which is a statement that would have me placed in a mental ward had I said it in August.
-Yes I know Nwora should’ve had a three. Sacar Anim should’ve also had 2 points for shot that went in after the referee called an offensive foul that ended up being waved off and declared an inadvertent whistle. That call was psychotic and all the refs involved deserve a hearty wag of the finger.
-If we want to get Theo John 13 shots on pick and rolls then that’s fine, but so many of his 13 shots tonight came on one-on-one post ups. That’s just not his strength right now. Even it it were, that’s still an inefficient shot.
-Joey Hauser had his first “quiet” night (2/7 from the field) and still was a key cog in this game, hitting two clutch free throws to put Marquette up 3 late in OT. Apart from a defensive miscue that caused a wide open 3 point shot, he’s shown that he can effectively defend smaller guards. That’s huge for when Wojo wants a smaller lineup.
-Brendan Bailey hit a three. We might end up needing more of that.
-Akoy Agau yells a lot.
-Jamal Cain started the game and finished it with 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers. That’s it.
-Matt Heldt had a wide open layup under the basket and instead kicked it out to Sam Hauser for a three. I love that man.
Next up is a 7 game home stand starting with something called Charleston Southern.