#10 Marquette Golden Eagles (22-6, 14-3 Big East) vs DePaul Blue Demons (9-19, 3-14 Big East)
Date: Saturday, February 25, 2023
Time: 6:30pm Central
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Kam Jones, 15.0 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.0 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 7.6 apg
DePaul Stats Leaders
Points: Umoja Gibson, 16.5 ppg
Rebounds: Nick Ongenda, 7.3 rpg
Assists: Umoja Gibson, 4.6 apg
DePaul Statistics Note: We’ll talk about it more in a second, but Nick Ongenda has only played three games all season to get to that season average. Eral Penn, who is one of three Blue Demons to start all 28 games this year, is averaging 7.2 per game.
Game Projection: Marquette has a 95% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 86-69.
The Stakes: Coming into Saturday night, Marquette is 14-3 in Big East play. They are in first place, ahead of a three-way tie between Creighton, Xavier, and Providence at 12-5. Marquette’s magic number to clinch at least a share of a title with any and/or all three of them is 1, while the magic number for an outright title against all three of them is 2. One Marquette victory — say, on Saturday night — will mean Marquette gets to claim a 2023 Big East regular season championship. If, by chance, that Xavier loses at Seton Hall on Friday night or Creighton loses at Villanova on Saturday afternoon, a Marquette win over DePaul would end the shared title chances for XU or CU.
Last Time Out: Marquette picked up an 89-69 victory at Wintrust Arena on Saturday, January 28th. David Joplin recorded 18 of his game high 28 points in the second half as the Golden Eagles turned a one point halftime lead into a 22 point margin with just under two minutes to play. Interestingly, Tyler Kolek took home the KenPom.com MVP for that game, narrowly missing Marquette’s first triple-double since Dwyane Wade in the 2003 NCAA tournament with 24 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists, and three steals
Since Last We Met: That game came just 10 days after DePaul knocked off then-#8 Xavier at Wintrust. That win over the X-Men is now the last time DePaul won a game this season. The loss to Marquette was their third straight defeat in what is now a nine game losing streak in a season where they hadn’t lost four in a row before this run started. During the skid, DePaul has fallen from #132 in the KenPom rankings to their current residence at #151. They had a fantastic chance to stop the streak on Wednesday night, needing literally any shot in the world to swing a 59-58 score the other way after Nick Ongenda blocked a Simas Lukosius shot with 10 seconds to play..... and all they got was a horrible looking attempt with no space whatsoever in the lane by Javan Johnson.... and it got blocked by Jayden Taylor anyway.
Tempo Free Fun: Hey, we just mentioned Nick Ongenda a second ago, so we should obviously start with the fact that DePaul got their projected starting center for this season on the court for the first time three games ago. He has been a paint patrolling nightmare for opposing offenses, blocking an absolutely hilarious 22.4% of shots against while he’s been on the court. Put it this way: Ongenda’s bad game was when he only had four blocks in the return bout against Xavier. He had eight against St. John’s in his debut and six on Wednesday night against the Bulldogs.
That’s a wrinkle that Marquette is going to have to deal with since Ongenda was not available for the first meeting between the two teams and the Blue Demons only got 20 minutes out of starting center Yor Anei. On top of that, Anei has missed the last two games for DePaul Ongenda’s also been doing a great job on the glass, grabbing six rebounds in his debut and then eight in each of his last two games. All of this doesn’t make DePaul a good basketball team though, just a different one than Marquette saw in late January. It is, obviously, a very teeny tiny sample size thing here, but if we take all the data since the day after DePaul’s last game without Ongenda and run it through the BartTorvik.com filtration system.... the Blue Demons are playing like the #195 team in the country. For comparison’s sake, Georgetown is #188.
DePaul has been unsurprisingly good on defense with Ongenda in the lineup, that’s the kind of thing all those blocks and rebounds will get you. They’re not elite, but #69 in the country is no joke... especially when the offense has nearly been at #300. Ongenda provides a particularly interesting matchup for Marquette, as he’s been incredibly athletic on the court in the bits and pieces of DePaul that I’ve watched since his return. I shouldn’t misrepresent that, I watched all of the two overtime periods between St. John’s and the Blue Demons in his first game back because I am a sicko. But the point of the story is that he was running around and making plays all over the place and definitely looking like a guy who hasn’t had the wear and tear of 25 basketball games on him. Add in the fact that DePaul lists him at 6’11” and 230 pounds, so Ongenda is being hyper-athletic while carrying a little bit of a bulk advantage on both Oso Ighodaro and Ben Gold... that sounds an awful lot like a potential problem for the Golden Eagles.
In terms of what DePaul did well/Marquette did poorly in the previous game, I don’t know if we can take any of the full game numbers seriously. Marquette shooting 48% from long range over the final 20 minutes and outscoring DePaul 56-37 kind of upsets the apple cart, if you catch my meaning. Thankfully, the PDF boxscore available on GoMarquette.com is the fancy kind with the individual half box scores, so we can rummage around in that 33-32 first half a little bit. The first thing that has to jump out at us is that Marquette was up eight, 24-16, with 7:24 to go and then got outscored 16-9 over the remainder of the half, and seven of Marquette’s nine were in the final 45 seconds of the half, including a Tyler Kolek free throw right before the horn. In short, Marquette can’t allow that to happen again. It’s one thing to let an eight point lead fade on the road, even against a struggling basketball team, it’s another thing to let that struggling team go on a big enough run on you to actually take a lead. Switch the game to Marquette’s barn, and you see how that’s not an acceptable outcome.
MU didn’t do a good job of rebounding the ball in the first half of that first meeting with DePaul. Yes, I know, Marquette’s not a good rebounding team, but even by those standards, they didn’t do a good job. They let the Blue Demons — also a not good rebounding team — get to 29% of their misses, about four percentage points better than average for them. The Golden Eagles also missed their season average on their own offensive glass by about three percentage points, gathering up just 23.5% of their own misses. They shot the ball well enough so that’s not really a gigantic problem, but again: When you’re facing a bad rebounding team and you can’t even rebound to your normal below-average standards, it’s not going well. Mix in DePaul’s new advantage of Nick Ongenda on the glass, and this suddenly turns into a blinking red warning light for a second meeting.
If Marquette can get 40 minutes of deflection minded defense like they got in the first 20 against DePaul down at Navy Pier, they should probably be doing pretty good. They got the Blue Demons to cough it up on 21% of possessions in that opening half. That’s a little below average for MU’s defense, but a lot more than DePaul usually gives it away, and the Blue Demons are a mediocre ball control team anyway. They were able to frustrate Caleb Murphy into three turnovers on his own in the opening 20 minutes of the game, so if Marquette can do a good job of denying opportunities for Umoja Gibson and make him give the ball up to teammates, that should pay dividends both in stopping the Blue Demons’ top offensive threat as well as opening the rest of the team up to costly mistakes.
Stat Watch: After six assists last time out against Creighton, Tyler Kolek has the 2nd most assists by a Marquette junior. He needed four to pass Sam Worthen’s total from 1979, and that only leaves Tony Miller’s junior year record of 274 ahead of him. Worthen was also in Kolek’s way in the all-time list, and now he has the 6th most assists in a single season by any Marquette player. The only men to have more assists in any Marquette season are Tony Miller, who did it in each of his four seasons in Milwaukee and Aaron Hutchins who did it once, in 1996. Kolek needs two to pass 1993 Miller for fifth and four to pass Hutchins for fourth. It is not impossible, seeing as he had 10 assists against DePaul in Chicago, that Kolek could pass 1992 Miller for third place on Saturday night.
Stat Watch #2: Oso Ighodaro has passed Dwyane Wade for the 7th most blocks by a Marquette junior. He needs three more to catch Luke Fischer and Dwayne “Not The Rock” Johnson in a tie for fifth place.
Stat Watch #3: Kam Jones has the 4th most made triples by a Marquette sophomore after hitting three against Creighton to pass Darius Johnson-Odom. Jones is going to be stuck here for a while, as he needs 14 to catch Steve Novak in third place, but hey: Saying the only Marquette sophomores to do better than you are Markus Howard, Sam Hauser, and Steve Novak isn’t a bad way to go through life.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2 with wins in the last three and eight of the last nine.
DePaul Last 10 Games: 1-9 and riding a nine game losing streak.
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 82-50.
Current Streak: Marquette won in Chicago earlier this season, so they have the active streak as well as wins in three of the last four contests.