Milwaukee, WI – Fresh off an impressive 83-81 overtime victory over the #21 ranked St. Mary’s Gales in their home state of California on November 26, the Georgia Bulldogs traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon and defeated the Marquette Golden Eagles 73-66 in front of a pro-Marquette crowd of over 13,000 fans.
“I thought we competed against a very good team in a very adverse environment,” said Georgia Coach Mark Fox. “It was a 40-minute game for sure, and we had a lot of guys chip in and make plays. It was a great win for our young people.”
Fox was spot on with his comment about getting contributions from a number of his players as six Bulldogs scored eight or more points. The scoring parade was led by senior Yante Maten, Georgia’s scoring and rebounding leader who managed to extricate himself from game-long Marquette double teams long enough to score 13 points.
Named to the first All-Southeastern Conference preseason team by all the publications and selected as the preseason conference player of the year by one, Maten returned to Georgia for his senior year after dipping his toe into the NBA draft waters last season. He’s a powerfully built big at 6-8, 245 pounds with long arms. In addition to finishing strong in the paint, a skill he put on display against Marquette, Maten has stretched his shooting range in his three years at Georgia. After attempting only one shot from distance his freshman year, the Michigan native connected on 8-of-15 three-point shots (53%) his sophomore year and 21-of-43 triples (49%) last season.
Along with most of his teammates, Marten was a player very familiar to Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski from the Marquette-Georgia match-up of last season, a game Marquette won by an 89-79 score on the Bulldogs home court. Maten went for a game-high 24 points in that game. Determined to limit Maten’s effectiveness this go-around, Marquette assigned 6-8 wing Sam Hauser to Maten and ran a second Golden Eagle to double Maten upon receiving the ball.
“We had some guys who really battled, and Maten is a guy if you don’t really battle, he could have 30 (points) and 20 (rebounds) and he’s had that before in college,” said Wojciechowski.
The strategy paid dividends in the first half as Maten was only able to get three shots up to the rim and score five points. But Maten showed good patience and mostly rotated the ball to open teammates when finding his scoring opportunities limited by the Marquette double team. He showed a soft shooting touch knocking down an elbow jump shot after jab stepping to create space for himself in one of the few times the Marquette defense was slow to double him in the first half.
Maten put both his strength and shooting touch on display connecting on a short shot in the paint through a foul with just over one minute left in the game. His ensuing free throw pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 66-61. A two-point shot by Marquette’s Markus Howard with 43 seconds left cut the Georgia lead to 67-63, but with Marquette forced to foul in an attempt to regain possession of the ball, Georgia’s William Jackson calmly knocked down four straight free throws in the next two Georgia possessions to seal the victory.
“You’ve got to be able to play through other people’s runs and have enough poise to withstand their runs, and have enough execution to answer them,” said Fox. “I thought tonight we had both.”
Wojciechowski caught most Marquette fans off-guard by tweaking the same starting line-up he used in the three-game winning streak his team brought into the game. In place of senior Andrew Rowsey, Wojciechowski inserted freshman Greg Elliott. While Elliott has improved his play in seemingly every one of Marquette’s seven games entering the game, Rowsey was leading the Golden Eagles with his 23.7 point per game average and was named to the most recent Big East Honor Roll.
“There’s an old adage that you play like you practice,” said the Marquette coach. “Andrew has been a key player for us and he has a prominent role on our team, and with that comes responsibility. So, you know…” His voice tailed off, but everyone in the media room knew the reason for the switch-up in the Marquette starting line-up.
Georgia’s Nicholas Claxton’s long three-point shot tied the score at 31 as the halftime buzzer sounded. Marquette had to feel fortunate with the tie score considering Howard, its second leading scorer at just under 20 ppg, picked up two fouls in the first minute and then a third foul with 42 seconds left in the half. Howard finished with eight points in seven first-half minutes.
“I have to be smarter,” said the sophomore Howard about being forced to the bench with foul trouble. “I let my team down. That’s on me. I take full responsibility. My team needs me on the floor and I have to fix that.” Wojciechowski echoed those thoughts saying Howard’s foul trouble “had a huge impact and we did not respond well when he was not in the game. Having him in foul trouble hurt us in a number of ways.”
Howard did his best to make up for lost time in the second half by scoring 21 points to finish with a game-high 28. After leading the NCAA with a 55% three-point shooting mark last season, Howard connected on 3-of-8 shots from distance in the second half to help keep Marquette close.
Perhaps having his rhythm thrown off by playing off the bench, Rowsey was also bothered by the length of the Bulldogs perimeter players and turned the ball over three times each half, the last of which came with Marquette down two points with 1:15 remaining in the game. The redshirt senior did knock down 3-of-9 shots from distance in chipping in 15 points.
“We have to make good decisions and we have to listen,” said a frustrated Wojciechowski. “Two things we can do a lot better.”
After playing four straight games on the road, the Bulldogs return home to face Winthrop on December 5. Marquette concludes a four-game home stand on December 5 when it hosts Vermont.
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