If you didn’t watch the Marquette Golden Eagles -North Dakota game Tuesday night you might think, 26-point victory...okay cool just what we needed after finals week to warm-up to Buffalo this weekend. NOT SO FAST. Here’s three things we learned from the game last night starting with the most concerning of them all.
Item #1: Turnovers...
The most frustrating word in all of sports. Also very avoidable. The Golden Eagles committed 22 of ‘em against a North Dakota team that only has two wins against a Division 1 opponent. That is simply inexcusable. Quick, wave to our cross-town rivals UWM that have been the unfortunate recipient of both of those two losses. Okay, back to the turnovers. Half of them were coughed up in the first eleven minutes of the game. If you wanted to have a positive outlook on the game you could say that Marquette was simply shaking off the rust of not having played in 10 days.
But I won’t have such outlook, and really, we shouldn’t. The fact of the matter is the Golden Eagles have struggled this season in the turnover department. Joseph Chartouny has been the most noticeable victim of the turnover bug as it’s taken him a while to settle in. He tied for the team lead with four TO’s last night and has 24 this season. Second on the team only to Markus Howard. But Howard’s usage rate is a lot higher and he’s MU’s number one scoring threat. We have to begin asking the serious question of whether or not Chartouny will ever materialize into a trusted ball-handler that can take some pressure off Howard like we all expected at the beginning of the season. He’s turned the ball over four times in four different games this season, and has another with three giveaways. According to KenPom.com, his turnover rate is 37.1% after never going over 23% while at Fordham and having a career low 16.8% last year.
It’s not just Chartouny though. Wojo has given Ed Morrow and Joey Hauser a lot of time on the court and for good reason: their upside is high. The immediate downside is that they’ve given the ball away a little too much this season. Last night Morrow had four and Joey had three but they have 22 and 23 on the year respectively. Both guys have a KenPom turnover rate over 23%, with Morrow’s all the way up at 34.3%. What’s concerning is that they aren’t primary ball-handlers so they shouldn’t be turning the ball over as much as they are. A lot of Morrow’s turnovers have been opponents poking it away from him after he grabs up a rebound, and he’s picked up his fair share as offensive fouls/illegal screens. I understand that this is their first year playing for Marquette and there is an adjustment period for the young fellas, but it would be nice if they could limit their turnovers sooner rather than later.
Giving the ball away was more of a team issue last night but if Marquette wants to dominate the Big East, then Chartouny, Morrow, and Joey will have to find a way to take care of the ball. You’re not going to shoot 60% from the field every night to hide 22 turnovers.
Item #2: The Markus Effect
There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing Markus Howard pulling up and draining threes with ease. When he’s shooting the three-ball well, he’s one of the best shooters in the country. We’ve also seen him drastically improve his inside game with his trademark floater finding the basket more often than not. When Howard is at the top of his game, it opens up space for other players to get involved as well. He did a great job of balancing shot-taking with dishing to the open man last night and that was, in part, why the Golden Eagles finished shooting 58% from the field. Not all of his passes led to assists (he only had three on the night) but it did create opportunities for other players like Ed Morrow and Sam Hauser to get heavily involved in the offense.
Our friends over at Paint Touches wrote an article last week addressing an issue that many in the Marquette faithful were calling Markus Howard playing too much “hero ball”. The article combats this by saying that we need Howard with the ball more because he will figure out a way to be efficient on offense and the Wisconsin game was very uncharacteristic of him. Although against a much inferior opponent, he figured it out against North Dakota. Howard took 13 shots to get 26 points and limited his turnovers to three in 25 minutes of action. I also noticed that he rarely had possessions where he dribbled out most of the clock and took a bad shot at the end. Howard had his vintage pull-up threes that dropped and otherwise very high-percentage shot selection. If this Markus Howard can show up more often, then the Golden Eagles have the potential to shoot 60% from the field on any given night because the rest of the offense will also be getting good looks.
Item #3: Greg Elliott Is Redshirting
We learned after the game that Greg Elliott will now redshirt the remainder of this season to recover from his left hand injury. An injury to the same hand and thumb plagued him most of last season but he played through it and was a key contributor on the Golden Eagles. We all thought that he would be back stronger this year but he tore the ligament in the same thumb that was badly bruised in October and has spent the last couple of months with a brace on the injured hand after having surgery to repair the tear. The redshirt is really the best decision for both Elliott and the team moving forward. But now Marquette is locked in at two maybeee three ball-handlers for the rest of the year.
Keep the ball in Markus Howard’s hands as much as humanly possible. The Golden Eagles are at their best when he’s leading the offense. If he gets into foul trouble, Joseph Chartouny and Sacar Anim will have to step up big time. Not something you or I want to hear but it’s just our reality. I know I was critical of Chartouny earlier, but he has had some success for stretches of games. Just look at his second half against Presbyterian. If he can become a more consistent offensive weapon, then that would be a huge help for Howard.
Anim is quick and loves driving to the rim. However, Wojo has rarely used him as the point guard this season. He’s been at his best playing the two guard and slashing to the rim. Now that we know Elliott won’t be coming back, we may see him taking the ball up more if Howard gets in early foul trouble. The positive spin on this is that Marquette’s been playing without Elliott for nearly half the season already. The Golden Eagles won’t have to change anything up. Chartouny and Anim will just have to be reliable in the unfortunate occasion that Howard gets into foul trouble.
The good news is that part of the reason why Markus Howard is currently ranked #9 in KenPom’s Player of the Year standings is because he has a career low in fouls called per 40 minutes. As long as he continues to be one of the best 300 players in the country at not getting whistled for infractions, Marquette might just be fine without Greg Elliott this year.