#1 - I don’t know anything about basketball and neither do you
When I say this, I do not mean it is a disparaging way. You’re a very smart person, unless you’re Seth Greenberg and you don’t think before you speak. Part of the fun of basketball is that the game is truly unpredictable and right when you think you have a grasp on what is going on, the game darts in a different direction, leaving you with a stunned expression as your team rallies from 16 down without their best player* to stay in the NCAA tournament hunt.
If you were part of the .00000001% of Marquette fans who thought we were going to win that game after Markus Howard went down and Creighton stretched their lead to 16, then you need to contacted be about managing my future stock portfolio because you are a predictive genius. Even if you thought Marquette still had a chance with Howard in the locker room, I doubt you predicted that we would be led by Sacar Anim and his offensive abilities. Read that sentence again and realize that is what happened last night in Omaha. Seriously. Sacar has been playing well in the last couple games, but 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting and 2-of-4 from three is still way out of character for the player largely making his bones this season as a defensive specialist. Overall, this game is why we love basketball: Marquette had every reason to quit after Howard went down, but they fought back and managed to earn a win on the road against a team that is nearly a lock for the NCAA tournament.
*- Hyperbole used for demonstrative effect: Sam Hauser is the best player on Marquette.
#2 - Sacar Anim has shown up
Sacar Anim has played pretty well over the last ten or so games. He has played well enough to fend off Greg Elliott and Jamal Cain who are gunning for his minutes, as they should. However, last night we saw something totally different. Anim wasn’t a situational scorer, making layups on the fast break, or cutting back door when his defender was too busy watching Howard or Andrew Rowsey, or even making that occasional big curling drive that Jajuan Johnson loved so much. Anim created his own shot and totally schooled anyone who Creighton put on him throughout the night. Anim used his superior strength to bully his defender into the lane where he finished fantastically with an array of floaters (including a spinning one-handed mid-range floater for the game-winner), layups, and even a Jordan-esque split-legged mid-range jumper. BY THE WAY, Sacar Anim is now 5-of-8 over his last five games from three point territory, including 2-of-4 last night if you care about that type of thing. To be honest with you guys, other than the fact that he has started to shoot the ball from the perimeter a bit, I don’t see too much of a difference in Anim’s game aside from confidence. He isn’t any bigger or faster than he was a few weeks ago and he hasn’t really changed his attacking style (other than the occasional three mentioned earlier), however, Anim has improved his confidence in the lane, going right up with the ball or making a hard move then finishing strong rather than hesitating and either missing the shot or getting blocked, this new look Anim caused problems for Creighton all of last night as Anim racked up a career high nine two-point buckets on only 12 shots. A confident Sacar is an effective Sacar and lets hope it stays that way.
#3a - Zone?
Without Markus Howard in the second half, Marquette played primarily zone defense and it worked like a charm. Creighton was held to 33 points (!) in the second half, and for reference, Creighton scored 30 points in the first 10 minutes against our man defense in the first half. I know Marquette has turned in good defensive performances against Seton Hall and DePaul earlier this season, but the second half of last nights game was the best defense they played all season. Not only did they hold a potent Creighton offense to 33 points in a half, but they did it without Creighton’s help. This was not an instance of a team going cold in the second half, it was an instance of Marquette forcing tough shots for players not named Marcus Foster and rebounding when these non-Foster players missed. Only the superb Khyri Thomas could buy a basket in the second half and even most of the shots he knocked down were contested pretty well. This is the second straight game where Marquette has employed a zone pretty effectively, as it worked well against St. John’s for a while. I would be shocked if we do not see a majority of zone being played against St. John’s coming up on Wednesday as we have proven we do not have a single defender who can contain Shamorie Ponds by himself. The is especially true if Markus Howard has to miss any more time with his hip injury suffered last night, because part of the effectiveness of the zone may have just been not having Rowsey and Howard out there together at all. Speaking of that.....
#3b - Markus Howard got hurt…
I won’t elaborate on this too much because there isn’t much to elaborate on at the moment. Markus Howard went in for a layup last night, got fouled (clean hard foul BTW), and landed on his rear end rather harshly. Howard was down for a good five minutes before being essentially carried off the court, putting no weight on his right leg and very little on his left. The injury has been reported as a right hip injury, and after the game head coach Steve Wojciechowski said Howard was being examined in the hospital. This is obviously not good, however, I would not go out and call his season over just because of that considering that this trip to the hospital could be cautionary and related to the team hopping on a plane within an hour of the game ending Pressurized air can do weird things to injuries. Either way, I wish the best for Markus and hope he can get back on the court as soon as possible.