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The Best & The Worst: Marquette vs Purdue

The Golden Eagles made a big comeback, but what was so great about it?

Purdue v Marquette Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Best Thing I Saw: Nearly everything about the second half.

If you’re not familiar with the Twitter usage from this here internet website during games, I put up a points per possession tweet at halftime of every Marquette basketball game. That comes from running some quick math to figure out the Four Factors during the first half to see what is and is not working for the Golden Eagles through the first 20 minutes.

Knowing what we now know about happened in the second half, I went back and put together the Four Factors — effective field goal percentage, turnover rate, offensive rebounding rate, and free throw rate — along with the points per possession for the final 20 minutes of the game. Of the 10 possible numbers, eight were improved for Marquette in the second half. The only holdouts were MU’s turnover rate on offense and Purdue’s free throw rate. The turnover rate was still under 18%, so I don’t care that it was worse than the first half, and free throw rate is largely inconsequential in terms of impact on whether or boat a team wins, so that’s fine.

Everything else was better in the second half from the MU perspective. Marquette shot better, Purdue shot worse. Marquette forced Purdue into more turnovers. Marquette got to more of their missed shots after halftime and kept Purdue to fewer of theirs. Marquette got to the line a metric ton in the second half as well, but a little bit of that is the six free throws that MU shot in the final minute when Purdue still kind of had a mathematical chance of winning. Down 5 with 40 seconds left? Okay, go ahead and foul, you’ve got a chance. Down 9 with nine seconds left? Okay, now you’re turning into LaVall Jordan and I’m starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with the water in Indiana.

The point here is that obviously Marquette won the game because they held the Boilermakers to just 17 points after halftime. That defensive stand was the primary reason for the victory. But Marquette’s overall performance was better in nearly every facet of the game, and that really can’t be ignored.

The Worst Thing I Saw: Well, the first half, honestly.

It’s not that it was bad. It’s that for about 18 minutes, we saw the exact same Marquette team that’s showed up for MU’s previous Gavitt Games contests. Or the Michigan game at Madison Square Garden. Or either of MU’s two NCAA tournament games under Steve Wojciechowski.

On his weekly radio show with Steve “The Homer” True on Thursday night, Wojciechowski talked about how his team was knocked back at the start of the game. Let’s be honest: Wojciechowski talks about that happening an awful lot. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m getting more than a little tired of seeing it happen. Given that Marquette ended up winning this game, I feel it’s more important than ever to ask how many times this is going to happen with Wojciechowski steering the ship before he starts doing something different to wind the team up before games? I’d like to think that Wojciechowski is sick and tired of it happening to his team...... but it keeps happening to his team.

Maybe we can just not do that any more? Don’t get me wrong, thrilling comeback victories are exactly that: Thrilling. But there’s a dark side to “the biggest comeback victory in the coach’s tenure,” and I’d sure like to never see that ever again or anything close to it, either.

The Second Best Thing I Saw: Jayce Johnson’s Fiserv Forum Debut

I know some of you are scratching your heads right now. “Hey, I don’t remember Marquette’s grad transfer getting out onto the court to play.” You are correct, he did not.

However, the 7-footer appeared on the Jumbotron during a timeout for a new interstitial segment called “Two Truths And A Lie.” It’s a straight forward concept: The player makes three statements, where two of them are true about himself and the third is a lie. Johnson’s were:

  • I can ride a unicycle
  • I can’t sing
  • I have flown an airplane

It turns out that the lie is “I can’t sing,” and then Johnson went ahead and proved that he can sing. I will admit that I currently do not remember what song he was singing — a capella, it should be pointed out — because he was so good that my brain immediately got distracted by the fact that GIANT-ASS DUDE JAYCE JOHNSON CAN APPARENTLY RIDE A UNICYCLE AND I NEED TO SEE THAT RIGHT NOW.

The Second Worst Thing I Saw: A lot of Marquette’s offensive execution left a lot to be desired.

I can’t be the only one that though MU’s offense looked.... is disorganized the word? It seemed that for a lot of the game, Steve Wojciechowski didn’t really have the team running any kind of a set system on offense, or at the very least, guys were completely unaware of what they were supposed to be doing.

On multiple occasions, Theo John ended up with the ball at the top of the key, and God bless John for all of his many and varied athletic gifts, but “moving while dribbling” is not ultra high on the list of things we want to see from him. Thus, it seems clear that whatever was supposed to happen next was someone either coming up to him for a handoff or making a cut for a pass..... and instead time stood still. You could sense the entire arena mentally flipping to “SOMEBODY MOVE,” John and the coaching staff included, and then it took what felt like eons for someone to do something to keep the ball moving.

I’m not against Wojciechowski teaching a strong and serious defensive structure and then giving his players free reign to use a handful of offensive concepts to score on the other end. Quite honestly, when you have a fireball of a lead guard like Markus Howard, the entire offensive gameplan when he’s on should be “get Markus open constantly,” and not running a complicated offense with plays that take a long time to develop can be highly beneficial.

Except that everyone has to be on the same page with what they’re supposed to be doing there, and over and over again on Wednesday night, that didn’t seem to be the case.

Maybe this was all part of reacting to early film on Purdue’s defense and what Marquette was doing was theoretically expecting to trigger a switch or a particular coverage by the Boilermakers. If you think you’re drawing stuff up to get the defense to do capital-S Something, and then they don’t do Something when you expect them to so you can counter it with your actual plan, then things break down pretty quickly. Hopefully that was MU’s biggest difficulty, and things will end up going smoother in future games.