Let’s have some fun, shall we?
Sports are supposed to be fun. Ever since the calendar turned to March, things have been Not Fun for Marquette basketball fans, so we’re going to change that up right here and now. Plus, it’s the offseason, and we’ve got to get to August somehow, right?
THE MARKUS HOWARD 30 POINT GAME TOURNAMENT
It’s a very simple concept. Marquette guard Markus Howard is a fireball of a scoring machine. He’s had seventeen 30+ point games in his three season collegiate career, which is nearly the exact perfect number of games to have a fun bracket tournament to decide which of his 30+ point games was actually the best one.
We’ve sorted and seeded his 30+ point games in order by point total. The 53 point game against Creighton this past season? #1 seed. His 30 point game against St. John’s in the Big East tournament this past season? #17 seed. We made some tiebreakers along the way to decide between a few of the seeds. For example: Howard has had three 33 point games. The first tiebreaker was whether Marquette won or lost the game, with a win getting a better seed. Next was turnovers, with the game with the fewer turnovers getting the better seed. After all, we’re trying to figure out which scoring game was his best one, and turning the ball over is not helpful to scoring a lot of points. In one case, we had to go to another tiebreaker, and we went with assists there. Yes, it’s not a scoring thing, per se, but it helps define what was a better game for Howard overall more than anything else we could have possibly used.
We’ve already settled the #2 vs #15 matchup, and that one was a landslide. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you see the first 50 point game in program history, overtime or not. Today, we move on to #3 vs #14.
Ready? Let’s see the matchup!
Result: Marquette won, 83-71
Full Markus Howard Statline: 35 minutes, 45 points on 11-for-17 shooting (7-for-7 on twos, 4-for-10 on threes), 19-for-21 on free throws, two rebounds, one assist, five turnovers, one steal.
This was, and still is, the record for points by a Marquette player in regulation. Howard would tie it two weeks later against Buffalo, but no one else has surpassed the 44 points that Tony Smith and Mike Moran both put up in 1990 and 1958 respectively. Howard has two 50 point games in his catalog, but both went to overtime and he ended regulation with less than 44 points both times.
As is usually the case when someone has more points than there are minutes in the game, the game’s outcome largely hinged on what Howard was doing. He had a 10-0 run all by himself against K-State in the first half that turned a 20-17 deficit into a 27-20 lead. In the second half, after the Kansas State Wildcats cut an 11 point halftime lead down to seven immediately after the break, Howard tossed in another eight straight to turn it into a 15 point game and let Marquette hold Kansas State at arm’s length for the rest of the game.
That’s a combined 18-0 stretch against the #12 team in the country. That’s wild. That shouldn’t be possible. An underrated part of Howard’s performance in this game is how he started searching out K-State defenders to draw fouls. He realized that Dean Wade was on the verge of fouling out and went after the Wildcats’ star to put him on the bench. Then he went and got Makol Mawein out of the way as well. It starts getting pretty easy to rack up points when you’re an absurdly accurate free throw shooter and you’re drawing fouls nearly at will. After all, the clock is stopped for those free throws, which just helps add more time for you to go knock down more shots along the way. 21 free throw attempts was a career high for Howard at the time, and his 19 made free throws still are his career best. Howard would finish with a usage rate of 43% in the game, but when you’re throwing up an offensive rating of 140, feel free to use as many possessions as you like.
Result: Marquette won, 88-85
Full Markus Howard Statline: 35 minutes, 32 points on 9-for-13 shooting (5-for-7 on twos, 4-for-6 on threes), 10-for-10 on free throws, seven rebounds, three assists, two turnovers
This was a big performance in a big spot for the Golden Eagles. Marquette came into this game on a four game losing streak, with the last three coming at the Bradley Center. 13-6 and 4-3 in Big East play had turned into 13-10 and 4-7. That had put MU’s NCAA tournament hopes dangerously at peril at the time, especially with narrow home losses to Villanova and Providence. Marquette had whomped Seton Hall in Milwaukee earlier in the season, but now they were on the road and in desperate need of a win.
Howard came through fantastically well, shooting with high accuracy and efficiency in all aspects of the game. 15 of his 32 points came in the first half, but it was how he performed down the stretch that helped guide Marquette to the win. The Golden Eagles had a 10 point lead after a Matt Heldt tip-in with 9:34 left to play, but Seton Hall Pirates answered with a 4-0 burst to make the lead just six points with less than eight minutes left by the time Marquette scored next.
Those next Marquette points? Free throws from Howard. Those freebies were the first two points out of 14 coming from Howard over the final 7:17 of the game, as MU prevented Seton Hall from getting too close for comfort. A Myles Powell triple as time expired provided the final margin, so it was really a six point game at the end from a certain point of view. Marquette played Seton Hall to a 22-all standstill for just over seven minutes to snap their losing streak, and 14 of those 22 came from Howard all by himself. Marquette needed the win badly, and they needed to hold on to a lead on the road to get it. Markus Howard saved his best in this game for when they needed him the most to make sure they left Newark with the W.
Which performance by Markus Howard was better? Cast your vote! Polling will stay open until Friday at midnight CT, so tell your friends to vote, too!