When Markus Howard is ON ONE, Marquette can be one hell of a basketball team. When he’s not, well, that’s where things get interesting. Mix in a hellacious solo performance from the opposing bench, and you’ve got a recipe for a game that no one in MU blue and gold ends up being particularly excited about.
That’s what we got on Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum as Howard tallied 21 points on 17 shots while UTEP’s Jordan Lathon knocked together 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-4 from long range. The end result? Marquette 76, UTEP 69. Yeah, Marquette is 7-2 on the season now officially, but no one is going to compose ballads about what they witnessed at the Forum, either.
It never should have come to this, by the way. Marquette was up 11, 13-2, after less than seven minutes of action, and the first half lead would crest at 12 points a few minutes later. Anyone with even one halfway useable eye in their head knew that UTEP was going to get into rhythm eventually, the question was how Marquette would respond to it.
The answer? Poorly.
A bucket from Efe Odigie made it a two point game, 23-21, favoring Marquette, with six minutes and change left in the first half. That’s a 19-10 run by the Miners spanning about seven minutes of game clock. You go ahead and pick whether the 19 or the 10 bothers you more, because I’ll listen to a case either way.
MU got their act together a little bit and got the lead back up to 10 on a pair of freebies by Howard, and the lead was seven at the break. Not what you want when you’re up 11 less than seven minutes in, but given the whole circumstances, it wasn’t all bad. The Golden Eagles had weathered a storm and still had something approximating control of the game.
After UTEP broke the ice on the second half with two stray free throws, Marquette then ripped off the next 12 points of the game, and a 49-32 lead certainly looked healthy and robust. The Miners just kept chipping away and chipping away and chipping away before finally a jumper from Lathon made it a four point game, 60-56, with 6:56 left to play. Things got very very real at this point.
An and-1 layup from Howard may have been the turning point as he answered Lathon’s bucket and pushed the lead back to seven. The Hauser boys would combine for Marquette’s next eight points, and after a pair of freebies from Joey Hauser, the lead was back to 11, 71-60, with just over two minutes left. That was pretty much the nail in the coffin for the Miners, although head coach Rodney Terry took a timeout following a Odigie basket with 30 seconds left to get within seven. His big plan? Fouling Markus Howard. The junior from Arizona knocked down the shots from the stripe, and that was that.
Marquette wins. Yay.
We’re unfairly burdening Howard with a lot of the blame here, but considering he missed all four three-pointer attempts he had in the first half, he has to handle some of it. Sometimes it ain’t your day, and you’ve got to recognize that. Elsewhere in “not your day,” Sam Hauser has now missed nine straight three-point attempts after going 0-for-6 on Tuesday night. At just 37% on the year now, the elder Hauser is clearly going through what passes for a funk for him after knocking down more than 45% of his long range bombs in his first two seasons. Even with the shooting issues, Sam still grabbed a game high 10 rebounds and dished out four assists. He’s still the same good all-around player that we’ve seen from him before, but for right now, his shot just isn’t falling.
I’m almost surprised that Steve Wojciechowski and his staff didn’t work towards getting more shots for Joey Hauser. How often is it that scores 15 points while not missing any of their five shots? Little Brother added six rebounds and two assists, too.
How about some highlights, courtesy of FS1 and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Well, hopefully this game got whatever that was out of everyone’s system. #12 Wisconsin comes to town on Saturday evening, and as much as I don’t particularly believe in the Badgers this season, I’m clearly spitting into the wind in terms of their results so far. MU is going to need to be better on both ends of the court if they want to remain undefeated at Fiserv come first thing Sunday morning.