Milwaukee, WI – Marquette had not heard much from center Luke Fischer in the second half of its Tuesday night game against Georgetown after the 6-11 junior went off for 19 points in the first half. In fact, Fisher scored just two points in the first 19:58 of the second half.
But Fischer announced himself loud and clear by making two free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining to lift Marquette to a highly-contested 88-87 victory over the resilient Hoyas.
After Georgetown senior D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera converted a pull-up jump shot from 15 feet with Marquette’s JuJuan Johnson’s hand in his face at the 5.3 second mark to give the Hoyas an 87-86 lead, Marquette called time out and diagramed a play inbounding the ball under the Georgetown basket.
“We drew up a play to get the ball to the basket, but it broke down from the start,” said Fischer. Marquette point guard Traci Carter took the in-bound pass, drove the ball up the right side of the court and keeping vision in the Marquette forecourt, found a cutting Fischer in the paint. Rather than allow Fischer to shoot a lay-up, Smith-Rivera fouled Fischer, sending him to the free throw line.
Fischer, who has been in his share of tight spots going back to his high school days when he led Germantown High School to a Wisconsin state championship, swished both free throws to regain the lead for Marquette at 88-87.
Having used up all their time outs, the Hoyas had no recourse but to improvise on the run and inbounded the ball to a streaking Isaac Copeland near the Marquette free throw line. Copeland, who had been on fire in the second half scoring 23 points to rally the Hoyas from an eleven point halftime deficit, heaved a three-quarter court shot that got a piece of the rim before bouncing away to the relief of nearly 13,000 Marquette fans.
Asked what he was thinking as he stepped to the free throw line realizing he pretty much controlled the outcome of the game, Fischer answered first with one word: “confidence. We work on pressure free throws every day in practice. If we don’t make them, we run.”
“I’m very proud of Luke,” said Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski. “Luke is one of the all-time great kids. He delivered big-time.”
Leading by as many as 15 points deep into the first half, Georgetown battled back in the second half behind Smith-Rivera and Copeland, who combined to score 32 of Georgetown’s 48 points after intermission. The Hoyas had whittled the Marquette lead to 69-64 with 7:20 left in the game when Marquette freshman Henry Ellenson, the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer and rebounder, converted on a left-handed half hook shot in the paint to push the lead to 71-64.
But it was a costly basket for Marquette as Ellenson landed awkwardly on his left ankle and remained curled on the floor in obvious pain. After being attended to by Marquette trainers, Ellenson was helped to the Marquette dressing room where he remained for the rest of the game.
“When Henry went down, it took the wind out of our sails,” said Wojciechowski. “That was the quietest I’ve ever heard the Bradley Center. But our guys showed toughness. We bent, but didn’t break.”
Without Ellenson and with Fischer as the only Marquette player taller than 6-5 to protect the paint, Georgetown scored on four of its next five possessions with three of the baskets coming at the rim. “Georgetown’s a real talented team that got into a good offensive rhythm in the second half,” said Wojciechowski.
Speaking of offensive rhythm, Marquette played to a nice flow in the first half scoring 50 points. “That was the best offense we played in a half the whole season,” said Wojciechowski. “The ball was really moving. Traci is out best distributor and he was a big part of that. All our other guys on the wing grew up as scorers. Traci is a true pass-first point.”
All of Carter’s seven assists came in the first half. He was able to find angles against the Georgetown man and zone defenses to feed Fisher deep in the paint for lay-ups, jump hooks and dunks.
Smith-Rivera declared for the NBA draft after his junior season last year, but didn’t hire an agent and after testing the NBA waters, decided to return to Georgetown for his senior season. He entered the game tied for third with Ellenson in scoring in the Big East with a 16.6 point per game average. He was tied for second in the league with 2.3 three-point shots made per game, tied for second in steals with 1.6 per game and sixth in assists with 4.4 per game. His 35.6 minutes per game led the Big East.
At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Smith-Rivera is a powerfully build point guard with range behind the three-point line. He can be a nightmare for an opposing big to guard as Ellenson found out late in the first half. Switching twice on Smith-Rivera out of screen-and-rolls, Ellenson was beaten off the bounce one time and allowed a Smith-Rivera three-point shot another time as Smith-Rivera racked up five quick points. After misfiring on his first five shots, Smith-Rivera connected on seven of his last twelve to finish the game strong.
Copeland, a 6-9 sophomore, plays with more of a face-up than a back-to-the basket game. Entering the game with a career scoring high of 23 points, he easily eclipsed that figure by dropping 32 on the Golden Eagles. He scores from all three areas of the court and converted on four of five free throw attempts. He was especially adept on Tuesday night moving without the ball, receiving passes in the paint and finishing at the rim.
With Fischer silenced for most of the second half and Ellenson injured, the Golden Eagles were led in the second half by Johnson and his 11 points. Entering the game averaging just over nine points per game, the junior from Memphis made seven of ten field goal attempts and his only free throw in scoring 15 points. His three-point play the old fashioned way with two minutes left in the game gave Marquette an 83-80 lead.
With Ellenson sidelined, the 6-5 Johnson slid over to the power forward positon for the last minutes of the game. “JJ did a real good job for us,” said Wojciechowski. “He gave us a different look at the four and was able to drive their four.”
The Marquette coach anticipated the media’s interest in the condition of Ellenson’s ankle by opening his postgame remarks by saying, “I don’t have an update on Henry. He’s getting his ankle examined right now.”
With Ellenson frequently speculated as a first round draft pick in the June NBA draft should he decide to leave Marquette after his freshman season, this could very well have been Ellenson’s last home game. His made baskets in the first half in front of the Marquette student section elicited chants of “one more year” from his fellow Marquette students, and he received a standing ovation from many in the crowd when he was helped off the floor after injuring his ankle.
“We’ve thrown a lot on Henry’s shoulders this season and he hasn’t batted an eye,” said Wojciechowski. Asked what went through his mind when he saw Ellenson grabbing his ankle in pain, Wojciechowski answered, “My main concern was for Henry and his health. We’ll always make a decision on him that’s in his best interests first. If it’s not the right thing for him to come back, we’ll have to adjust.”
Marquette improved its conference record to 8-9 heading into its last regular season game at Butler on March 5. A victory would not only even Marquette’s record, it would also improve its seeding for the upcoming Big East Conference Tournament in New York. “Butler is a terrific team and they’re terrific at home, but a win there would get us to 20 (overall) wins and would be a heck of a thing for our group.”
Georgetown saw its losing streak extend to five games with the defeat. Its record fell to 14-16 overall and 7-10 in conference. The Hoyas finish their regular season at Villanova on March 5.
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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