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.
The #7 seed ran away with the voting last time around, so let’s see if shifting to the 8/9 matchup gives us the first (and presumably only) upset of the first round.
Ready? Let’s see the matchup!
#8 Seed: 36 points at DePaul on February 20, 2019
Result: #10 Marquette won, 92-73
Full Markus Howard Statline: 39 minutes, 36 points on 12-for-21 shooting (8-for-12 on twos, 4-for-9 on threes), 8-for-10 on free throws, four rebounds, three assists, two turnovers, one steal
Believe it or not, this game, perhaps the final horn of this game was the high water mark of the 2018-19 Marquette season. Yes, they won the next two games, but the very next game was the Butler game where LaVall Jordan kept fouling late when it was pointless, leading to what appeared to be Markus Howard hyperextending his leg, and then Howard was clearly bothered by his groin muscles in the game after that on the road against Providence. It was all downhill after that, so Howard toasting the Blue Demons for 36 points at Wintrust Arena was about as good as it was going to get.
Howard had 18 points in each half of this one, so he didn’t have any particularly wild stretches. He had MU’s last five points of the first half, resulting in the Golden Eagles leading by 12 at the break. Howard also had MU’s first five points of the second half, including three on free throws because Eli Cain hilariously fouled Howard on a triple attempt just 11 seconds after the half started.
DePaul didn’t go away, though, and Howard provided two dagger moments late in the game. First, with Marquette finding themselves up only 12 with about five minutes left, DePaul had the ball, right up until Lyrik Shreiner coughed it up and then fouled Howard for an and-1 seconds later. Not great for him, but super great for Marquette. Howard dropped in the freebie for the three point play and the 15 point lead, and about two minutes later, Theo John corralled a Joey Hauser miss and found Howard to bang in a triple to make it a 20 point game.
A masterful performance from the Golden Eagles in general and by Howard in specific.
#9 Seed: 34 points vs Xavier on February 18, 2017
Result: Marquette won, 83-61
Full Markus Howard Statline: 29 minutes, 34 points on 11-for-18 shooting (2-for-6 on twos, 9-for-12 on threes), 3-for-3 on free throws, four rebounds, three assists, one turnover
This particular game is historic, specifically for the Markus Howard 30 Point Game Tournament. It is, in fact, Howard’s first ever 30 point game in a Marquette uniform. As we’ve clearly outlined in the course of this event, there’s been a lot of them since that day in February 2017, but this one was the first one.
It was also a pretty big win for the Golden Eagles and a mighty performance by Howard as well. Coming in, Marquette had lost four of their last five after beating #1 Villanova. While that win had given MU a signature win that they had otherwise lacked on the season in terms of a postseason profile, the subsequent skid had them gasping for life. They had dropped from 5-3 in Big East play to a now worrying 6-7 with just five regular season games left to go. It was put up or shut up time, and a crippled Xavier team just happened to be coming to town for National Marquette Day.
Howard torched the Musketeers for what was then a Marquette record tying nine three-pointers on the way to his first 30 point game and went off for a single-handed 11-4 run against the Musketeers in the second half to tile things over in MU’s favor for good.
What was particularly great about this performance was that Marquette desperately needed it. The margin of victory is going to make this look like a runaway Golden Eagles win forever, but if you look at the box score, it was anything else but that. Sam Hauser was scoreless. Duane Wilson was 1-for-7 and Katin Reinhardt was 1-for-6, both off the bench. Luke Fischer played 12 minutes off the bench before fouling out. Jajuan Johnson didn’t even play, even though he was healthy. Andrew Rowsey was 3-for-10 from long range, which isn’t the worst thing ever, but it’s also not great. Marquette needed a huge kick in the pants as a team and Howard delivered it and then some.
Time to vote! Which Markus Howard performance was better? The poll will stay open til Friday at midnight, so tell your friends to vote, too!