Milwaukee, WI – Things did not look good for Marquette on Wednesday night after Seton Hall’s Khadeen Carrington knocked down a cold-blooded, elbow jump shot with three seconds left in the game to tie the score at 77. After a desperation three-point runner by Marquette’s Haanif Cheatham fell short, Marquette was left with the seemingly daunting task of winning the game in overtime with Luke Fischer and Sam Hauser, its starting center and stretch four, respectively, watching from the bench after fouling out in the last minutes of regulation.
But channeling its Big East leading free throw shooting percentage mark of .819 entering the game, the Golden Eagles converted seven of eight free throws in the extra session to escape with an 89-86 victory.
“We showed a toughness in building a lead,” said Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski in reference to his team’s 70-60 advantage with four minutes left in regulation. “It would have been very easy for our group, for many groups, to get deflated and not be able to bounce back. I was concerned our guys may not have been where they needed to be mentally going into overtime. I was wrong; they were.”
As he has since taking over the starting point guard position early in the non-conference season, Markus Howard spearheaded Marquette’s overtime charge. The 5-11 freshman, who graduated a year early from Findlay (NV) Prep to enter Marquette this past fall, not only led the Golden Eagles with 22 points, but also handed out a team and career-high six assists without a single turnover.
“Markus is just a bad boy,” said Wojciechowski through a smile. “Seventeen years old! Are you kidding me? We ran mostly middle ball screens for Markus the whole overtime. He usually comes off ball screens for his own stuff, but he drew a crowd and made some exceptional passes, none better than the one where he found JJ (Jujuan Johnson) in the corner.”
Johnson drained that corner three-point shot in front of the Marquette bench off Howard’s pass to put Marquette up 84-80 with two minutes left in overtime. But Seton Hall, which had played from behind most of the game and made all the right plays in the final three minutes of regulation to send the game into overtime, rallied once again, this time behind the talented left shooting arm of Desi Rodriguez.
A junior and reigning Big East Player of the Week, Rodriguez calmly swished a catch-and-shoot open jumper from the left corner to narrow the Marquette lead to 84-83. After one free throw from Matt Heldt and two from Katin Reinhardt bumped the Marquette lead to 87-83, Rodriguez answered again with a three-point shot off a kickout pass from an offensive rebound to cut the Marquette lead to 87-86. But with only eight seconds left in overtime, Seton Hall was forced to foul and Reinhardt made two more free throws to give Marquette’s its eventual margin of victory.
Asked about stepping to the line and converting all four of his free throw attempts in overtime, Reinhardt said the opportunity was something “I dream about every night. Growing up, you dream of knocking down free throws to seal the deal and I’m very confident in the way I shoot free throws, so I didn’t have any doubt that I was going to make those.” Reinhardt, a graduate senior playing his last year in Milwaukee after stops at UNLV and Southern California, entered the game as the Big East’s second best free throw shooter with a .906 average.
The Marquette victory served as revenge for a New Year’s Day 69-66 loss at Seton Hall that saw the Pirates overcome a six-point lead in the last minute of the game to pin a disheartening loss on the Golden Eagles. Cheatham and Fischer struggled in the first Seton Hall game, struggled in Marquette’s next game, a blowout loss to Villanova on January 7, but played back to their norms on Wednesday night.
Cheatham opened the game aggressively. The sophomore scored Marquette’s first two points of the game by doing what he does best, driving the ball and scoring at the rim. He finished with 17 points making half of his ten field goal attempts and 7-of-11 free throws. “It was great to see Haney play poised offensively,” said Wojciechowski. “He’s also our best perimeter defender and it’s hard not to have him on the floor.” In fact, the Marquette coach never took him off the floor as Cheatham was the only player on either team to play all 45 minutes of the game.
Fischer had his hands full going head-to-head with Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, the Big East’s leading rebounder at nearly 12 per game with a consecutive double-double steak of nine entering the game that he would extend to ten against Marquette by scoring 14 points and collecting 19 rebounds. Wojciechowski called him a “beast.”
A right-hand dominant player, Fischer mostly countered Delgado’s overplay of his left shoulder on the low block by turning over his right shoulder to shoot jump hooks with his left hand. Fischer also unveiled perhaps his best individual move in a Marquette uniform when he felt Delgado posting up on the right block, spun quickly over his left shoulder, dribble once to the rim and finished strongly with a two-handed flush while absorbing a Delgado foul. He contributed 14 points and a Marquette-high eight rebounds.
“Luke had ten points and seven rebounds in the second half and was a tremendous presence for us,” said Wojciechowski. “He may have lost a little confidence over the past few games and obviously I told him I believe in him and we need him, but they don’t hand out confidence coupons…you’ve got to do it on the floor.”
Perhaps the most physical team in the Big East, the Pirates entered the game leading the conference in rebounding and dominated Marquette on the backboards. In addition to Delgado’s 19 rebounds, Ismael Sanogo collected 11 rebounds and Rodriguez pulled down nine rebounds in helping Seton Hall to a staggering 54-33 rebounding advantage over Marquette. The 54 Seton Hall rebounds were 15 more rebounds than any Golden Eagles opponent pulled down against them this season. “They are so darn physical and athletic and can really rebound,” said Wojciechowski.
The game ended when a long, potential game-tying, three-point attempt by Seton Hall’s Myles Powell hit hard off the rim as the final buzzer sounded. Howard celebrated the victory by running to the Marquette bench and into the arms of Wojciechowski. “I was a little taken aback,” said the Marquette coach. “I’m not in the shape I used to be, so I was lucky he didn’t knock me on my butt.”
Marquette, which improved its record to 11-5 overall and 2-2 in the Big East, concludes a two-game homestand on January 14 when it hosts DePaul. Seton Hall, now 12-3 overall and 2-1 in conference, continues a three-game road trip also on January 14 when it visits Providence.
This article was written by Tom Osowski, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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