On Tuesday night, Marquette men’s basketball started off the 2019-20 season with a resounding victory over Loyola Maryland by the final score of 88-53. There was a lot to like, and also a few things that were not so great. What we’re going to do here is explore those type of things in depth as warranted, and if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to do one of these following every MU game this season.
The Best Thing I Saw: Markus Howard Going Full Markus Howard
Is there any other way to explain the first 21 minutes of the game? Marquette’s star guard made his first six shots of the game. He scored 19 of Marquette’s points as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead, including 16 straight. By the time he hit his first shot of the second half to break Jerel McNeal’s all-time scoring record, Howard was 10-for-17 from the field (59%) and 7-for-10 from long range (70%). He had an effective field goal percentage of 79.4%! SEVENTY-NINE POINT FOUR PERCENT. It was unreal, and after the absurdly horrible end to the 2018-19 season, it was wonderful to see The Human Torch from Chandler, Arizona, back out on the court.
The Worst Thing I Saw: Marquette turnover woes continued.
With 21 turnovers in a 76 possession game, Marquette wrapped up their season opener with a turnover rate of 27.6% per KenPom.com. The Golden Eagles finished up the 2018-29 season ranked #239 in the country in turnover rate, gagging it away on 19.3% of their possessions.
Two things: First, Marquette is definitely going to be a lot better than they were against Loyola for the rest of the season. It’s legitimately hard to be that bad with the ball for an entire season. Western Carolina was the worst TO% team in the country last year at 25.1%. The year before, it was Northwestern State at 24.7%. So this is going to normalize, and that’s fine. The question is how much is it going to normalize, and the ability (or inability, perhaps) of Marquette to hang onto the ball and max out their offensive potential is going to have a major effect on how many games they end up winning.
Second, Markus Howard is not the problem. Yes, the senior star turned it over four times in his 26 minutes of action, and starting off the year averaging four turnovers a game is definitely a bad way to go. However, thanks to his 46% usage rate in the game (remember when I said what his effective field goal percentage was?), Howard is sitting there after Game #1 with a completely and totally acceptable personal turnover rate of 18.1%, according to KenPom. He was at 18.4% for all of last season. This was actually better! Cool!
You know what’s not cool? Here’s the turnover numbers for Sacar Anim, Symir Torrence, Koby McEwen, and Brendan Bailey:
4, 4, 3, 3.
In terms of single game turnover rates, those come out to 28.0%, 64.7%, 32.2%, and 47.7%.
That is god-awful.
It’s one game! Things will normalize! Symir Torrence will likely play 51 straight minutes (3 x the 17 he played vs LUM) at some point this season without a turnover, and we’ll all forget about this!
Until then, though, this is not super great.
The Second Worst Thing That I Saw: Whatever Loyola Maryland was doing on offense
Okay, look. Yes, on some level, Marquette was definitely causing problems for Loyola’s offense. You don’t have a team shoot 22.2% from behind the arc and 34% inside the arc if the other team isn’t trying to defend them.
However, the Greyhounds missed their first 13 shots of the game, and they missed two free throws in there, too. Some of these — a lot of these? — were not bad shots. Multiple times while I was watching Marquette run out to that 21-0 lead, I shouted out loud in fascination that Loyola’s shots were just not going down. It was mind boggling. They were missing layups, or at least layup-adjacent shots.
They missed two free throws! Yeah, sure, Jaylin Andrews was a 64% shooter a year ago, so that possibility was on the table, but it came dead in the middle of those 13 straight misses. Marquette was up 13-0 at the time. Oh, okay, a foul, they’ll end the shutout here OH MY GOD THEY DID NOT. And then it went for another two and a half minutes of game clock.
I’d like to say that maybe all of this was because of the relatively recent loss of Santi Aldama from Loyola’s expected lineup. The idea would be that without the top 70 freshman, things got jumbled in terms of rotation and expectations. Except this is mostly the same Loyola squad that Tavaras Hardy had a year ago. They were just bad, veering straight over into hard to watch.
The Second Best Thing That I Saw: Whatever Theo John was doing with his hands.
It’s not a secret that Theo John had foul problems a year ago. He was one of the most devastating defensive weapons in the country in 2018-19..... when he was on the floor. Now, he only played 21 minutes in this one, but John limited himself to just two fouls in the proceedings. The first one came about seven minutes into the game, and the second came right after Markus Howard hit his record breaking three-pointer. That’s it, and I’ll even forgive him the second one because of the off chance he thought that the production team was going to have a tribute to Howard immediately ready to play. “Hey, cool, there’s the record, I shall commit a foul in order to create a stoppage so Markus can get a big ovation.”
It didn’t happen, I’m just saying that it would have made sense.
Anyway, the point is that Theo’s minutes were merely limited by Steve Wojciechowski’s rotations in this game and that’s it. You can’t ask more from him.
Of course, keeping his hands off of the opposing team is not the only thing that Theo John was doing with his hands in this game.
John recorded a whopping eight blocks in this game, tying him for the second most ever recorded by a Golden Eagles player in a single game. A bunch of people are tied with eight, and Jim McIlvaine has the record with 13. I’m not going to call that record unbreakable, but it’s gonna be hella hard for Theo to get to 10, much less 13.
Thanks to those eight redirections, nearly all of which made the crowd collectively go “DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN,” John became the 10th player in Marquette history to record 100 career blocks. He now has 104, and has passed Ousmane Barro and Walter Downing to sit at #8 all time. I don’t think I need to point out to you that this was game #1 of his junior year.
In addition to the crowd swinging blocks, John also had seven points and eight rebounds. Look, he’s almost assuredly not going to get eight rebounds a game. Mac’s record for a season is 142, and eight in 30 games is up over 200. But seven points and eight rebounds? That feels like something that John can duplicate night in and night out, and then the blocks are just icing on the cake.
What did you see in the game? What stood out to you? Hit the comments section and let us know.