I typed out my first word with exactly 8:05 remaining in the game. Marquette is now up by 25. If they somehow manage to lose, I will not delete what I have written. Instead I will use this space to document my likely disturbing thoughts, so let’s hope that the catastrophic is avoided.
The first possession went about as poorly as you could draw up. Markus Howard committed a silly turnover and doubled down on it by picking up foul #1, which he tends to do when frustrated. Given the way the team had started their other two games against St. John’s this year, I was full of fret.
With St. John’s aggressive switching on Howard, someone needed to step up early and fast to avoid another blowout. That person tonight was Sacar Anim. On 3 straight possessions he made a layup, a three and a floater. The pressure was taken off of Markus just a little bit.
The two teams went tit for tat throughout the first 10 minutes, but Markus Howard was given just enough space to push Marquette’s lead to 14 with 4:19 left. From that point until the end of the half they scored 2 points and committed 3 turnovers. Chris Mullin’s squad could not take advantage of the lapse and only cut the lead to 12 by halftime. Their offense was just not clicking, especially from outside.
Hey, look, the game’s over in real time. Sweet, I don’t have to do a mea culpa.
The halftime did not appear to be productive right away as the 12 point cushion was trimmed to a 6 point nailbiter after a pair of fast break dunks off of bad Marquette turnovers. After a Wojo timeout followed immediately by a media timeout it looked like a brand new ballgame and Marquette fans every begrudgingly got off their couch to find their household Panic Button.
Then Markus Howard happened.
What stuck out to me about his performance today was that he was forceful, but patient. He was like those pictures of alligators with a cute bird on their nose. He waited for the perfect moment to strike and did not miss. From 14:36 to 11:46 he scored 12 of Marquette’s 14 points without missing a shot, including an acrobatic layup over 2 defenders with size advantages. He had that, “Yeah you’re just not stopping me” look in his eyes and finished the game in the blink of an eye. The team didn’t look back from there.
If I could sum the game up in a sentence, Marquette looked rested while St. John’s, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, did not. The Red Storm had depth concerns all year and it crashed down on them tonight.
Big time shoutout to Ed Morrow. His recent developments have been clouded by the team’s suckiness, but he has molded himself into an incredible X-factor off the bench. He finished today with 8 points on 4-of-7 shooting, eight tough boards, and a handsy steal. No one on the team comes close to showing the effort that he puts out on a consistent basis, and he’s finally done so while avoiding foul trouble. He still doesn’t pass well or even at all, but no one can fight through a double team off an offense board like he does.
To be honest I never even considered the possibility of them playing tomorrow. They play the winner of the Georgetown/Seton Hall matchup that’s likely happening as you read this. A win probably seals their fate as a 5 seed, but with Maryland losing to a Nebraska team coached by this man, the Golden Eagles might have already nestled their way into that spot. The dominating performance makes me think the demons might be exorcised, so I’m starting to feel good again.