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#10 Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: vs St. John’s Red Storm

The Golden Eagles look to avenge their lone loss in league play and their only loss since before Thanksgiving.

UCLA v St. John’s Getty Images

#10 Marquette Golden Eagles (19-3, 8-1 Big East) vs St. John’s Red Storm (16-6, 4-5 Big East)

Date: Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 25.0 ppg
Rebounds: Sam Hauser, 6.9 rpg
Assists: Markus Howard, 4.2 apg

St. John’s Stats Leaders

Points: Shamorie Ponds, 20.4 ppg
Rebounds: LJ Figueroa, 6.8 rpg
Assists: Shamorie Ponds, 5.6 apg

Current KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #26, the highest ranking since starting the 2013-14 season at #24.
St. John’s: #48
KenPom Projection: Marquette has a 75% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 81-73.

Tempo Free Fun: Let’s deal with what St. John’s has done since knocking Marquette off in the Golden Eagles’ first Big East game of the season. GOOD NEWS FOR THEM: They went down to D.C. four days later and beat Georgetown in overtime to move to 2-1 in Big East action and 14-1 on the year. That set of circumstances pushed the Johnnies into the AP top 25 rankings at #24. It was a big deal.

SINCE THEN..... St. John’s is 2-5, with a season sweep of Creighton giving them the two wins. In fairness to them, the most recent game/loss was on the road against Duke, which is not a Big East contest, so they’re 2-4 in league games since popping into the top 25. This is not so good. It was made worse by Shamorie Ponds saying “I feel like as a team, we’ve kind of parted ways. We’re not together like we were in the beginning,” after their most recent Big East loss. They beat Creighton since he said that, but they also got mollywhopped by Duke, so a bit of a mixed bag of results.

With the discussion of St. John’s free fall out of the way, we can rewind to that game at Carnesecca Arena and attack what went wrong for the Golden Eagles in that one. It’s actually very simple: St. John’s shot 46% from behind the three-point line and Marquette shot 29%. Turnovers were about the same, offensive rebounding was favoring Marquette.... that shooting stuff just got completely one-sided towards the Red Storm. To be honest, it wasn’t just the three-point shooting, it was the two-point shooting as well, as the Johnnies connected on 59% inside the arc against just 48% for Marquette. 48% isn’t bad, honestly. It’s really just more that the 48% was completely overwhelmed by what St. John’s was doing.

That sets the table here to this point: When you follow through on Marquette’s defense over the next eight games — all wins in Big East play — the Golden Eagles have the best two-point shooting defense in the entire league according to KenPom. Even after letting the Johnnies get nearly 60% of their shots in the net, MU is only allowing teams to shoot 46.2% inside the arc. The next best team is Villanova at 48.7%, so there’s a pretty big gap between what Marquette can do and what everyone else can do.

The question here is whether or not that Marquette can duplicate that eight game shooting defense against the Red Storm in Fiserv Forum. The problem is that all of St. John’s starters shot 50% or better inside the arc against Marquette the first time around. If Marquette is going to alter their outcome from earlier this year, it’s going to take a full team effort to get there. Everyone has to do a better job defending their man, because everyone’s man went wild on New Year’s Day. Marquette has shown themselves to be a good defensive team this season.... just not against St. John’s. If MU wants to avenge their only loss since Thanksgiving, something from last time around has to change.

One of the things that did not work out for Marquette against St. John’s on New Year’s Day was an effort to take the ball inside and cause problems for the Johnnies. St. John’s goes no larger than 6’7” in their starting lineup, and the 6’9” Sedee Keita is averaging just 14 minutes per game in league play and has only gone over 20 minutes once. The Marquette game earlier this season was just Keita’s first game action since early November, so we probably will see more of him at Fiserv Forum. Still, Marquette going 6’8”/6’9”/6’9” with Sam Hauser, Joey Hauser, and Theo John should be an advantage for the Golden Eagles. Not only should it be an advantage, Marquette needs to make it an advantage. Chris Mullin is running his starters out there for at least 32 minutes per game each, and he’s only going seven guys deep. Keita is one of the bench guys in the rotation, and Bryan Trimble is the other. Trimble averages just over 18 minutes per game in Big East action, but that includes a 31 minute outing when Shamorie Ponds sat out with a back issue. Knock that one out and Trimble is averaging under 17 minutes a game. MU head coach Steve Wojciechowski has said repeatedly that he wants his team playing inside-out this season, and that looks like it should be an advantage for them here between the size difference as well as creating problems with fouls. That was clearly the plan before, but it didn’t work. The question is how do Wojo and his staff take what they know about playing against St. John’s and alter their game plan for a second go-round?

One final item. Markus Howard was 2-for-15 against St. John’s in the first meeting this season. 0-for-7 inside the arc, 2-for-8 outside of it. The three-point shooting isn’t good, but guys like Howard are going to have games like that on occasion. It’s (mostly) fine. The oh-fer when taking it to the rack is a problem. That can’t happen again. Perhaps the bigger question here is whether or not that game is weighing on Howard’s mind at all. Does he take responsibility for the loss after scoring just eight points against the Johnnies? Is he going to be driven to make sure Marquette avenges the loss? How hard is he going to be driven? Marquette is at their best when Howard is attacking, of course, but there’s a line where that attacking becomes reckless and thus harmful. Can Howard find the line and not go over it?

Marquette Last 10 Games: 9-1, with the loss coming on the road trip against St. John’s.

St. John’s Last 10 Games: 4-6, coming off of the 91-61 loss at Duke on Saturday. St. John’s has only beaten Creighton in Big East games since starting off league play 2-1 with a blown call by Michael Stephens handing them the loss to a certain extent.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 20-13.

Current Streak: Both teams won their home games in each of the past two seasons, and St. John’s won the game in New York earlier this season as well. No one has won consecutive games in this series since MU took all three meetings in the 2015-16 season.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - The official Marquette team account
@StJohnsBBall - The official St. John’s team account
@BenSteeleMJS - The Journal Sentinel’s beat reporter
@RumbleSBN - our SB Nation friends that cover St. John’s
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that cover the entire Big East