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 got our first real important upset of the tournament in the other semifinal, as the #4 seed knocked out the #1 seed, aka the all-time Marquette single game scoring record. That’s pretty impressive. The #4 seed sits and waits for whatever opponent comes out of this matchup, sooooooooo
Ready? Let’s see the matchup!
#2 SEED: 52 points at Providence Friars on January 3, 2018
Full Markus Howard Statline: 44 minutes, 52 points on 17-for-29 shooting (6-for-10 on twos, 11-for-19 on threes), 7-for-7 on free throws, one rebound, two assists, two turnovers, two steals.
The first 50 point game in Marquette history. That’s a pretty big deal, and that’s without even getting into the fact that it tied Marshon Brooks’ Big East record for points in a game. Yes, yes, it took five extra minutes of overtime to get there, and Howard threw in 10 of his 52 in the extra session. He ended regulation two points shy of what used to be the regulation scoring record at the time.
Perhaps more importantly than Howard scoring 52 was the fact that Marquette absolutely needed him to score all of those 52 to win. Here’s two paragraphs of what Pistol Brad wrote about the game at the time:
The way that Howard put the team on his back down the stretch you would have never guessed that he started the game 2/8 and there was talk of his shooting slump continuing. Howard put that talk to rest with a personal 8-0 run to start the second half to give your Marquette Golden Eagles a 7 point lead. However, like the rest of the leads held by either team throughout the game, it didn’t last for very long. Providence cut the lead back down to 1 with 15 minutes remaining in the game on an Alpha Diallo layup. From there the score ping-ponged back and forth with Marquette eventually taking their largest lead of the game with 7:32 left on another Howard three that stretched the Marquette lead to 8. However, the Friars, much like their creepy mascot, didn’t go away. Marquette went on a four minute scoring drought from 6:28 to 2:11 in which Providence took a 6 point lead and I nearly threw my phone into my television.
Markus Howard seemed to sense my pain and decided to score 10 points over the final 2:11 including a banked in three and an and-1 with 28 seconds left to tie the game. The following Providence possession ended with Greg Elliott knocking the ball off Kyron Cartright’s leg and returning the ball to Marquette with 4.8 seconds on the game clock, but Andrew Rowsey left the potentially game winning three just short and the game went into OT. After a heart attack inducing regulation, Marquette started overtime with another Howard three, giving him 45 points and at the time and officially pushing him past the previous Marquette record of 44 by both Tony Smith and Mike Moran. Howard finished overtime with 10 points in the extra period, giving him the aforementioned single game record 52 points on the night and ensure that the Golden Eagles would be able to remember the night on a positive note.
Howard finished the game on a 15-for-21 shooting spree. My goodness. 10 points in the final 2:11 and 10 points in overtime means that Howard knocked in 20 of his 52 in the final 7:11 of the game as Marquette won by just five points. That’s amazing.
In terms of context, Marquette kind of really needed to win this game, as they had started Big East play 1-1 with a narrow home loss to Xavier in there. They had already dropped a home date with Georgia, and at the time, Marquette was in need of victories that would point them towards the NCAA tournament. They got one here even if the next two months would end up without enough wins to get them there.
#3 Seed: 45 points vs #12 Kansas State Wildcats on December 1, 2018
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 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 Mawien 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.
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!