Milwaukee, WI– The Shamorie Ponds show rolled into the Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Wednesday night as the St. John’s Red Storm looked to extend their four-game winning streak at the expense of Big East foe Marquette. But Ponds, on fire during the Johnnies’ winning streak with a 32 point per game average playing every minutes of those four games, was upstaged by Marquette’s Sam Hauser and Andrew Rowsey as the Golden Eagles duo combined to score 43 points in leading Marquette to a 85-73 victory. Marquette got payback for a 86-78 loss to St. John’s earlier in the month in a game where Ponds went off for 44 points.
Hauser staked Marquette to a 2-0 lead with a lean-in jumper in the paint and did not stop scoring until he had put 24 points on the board to lead both teams in scoring. The sophomore from central Wisconsin entered the game as the Big East’s top three-point shooter by percentage (49%) and proceeded to show off his long-distance accuracy by knocking down five of seven shots from behind the arc. Hauser separates quickly from screens to get open looks in Marquette’s set offense, but he is especially adept at finding space as a trailer in transition and has the green light to fire away while the defense scrambles to set up.
Hauser is a two-level scorer who can put the ball on the deck to dribble into a mid-level shot. With the St. John’s defense switching most ball screens, the 6-8 Hauser scored in midrange by shooting over shorter defenders who often found themselves matched up with Hauser after switches. Hauser has improved his back-to-the basket game in his nearly two years at Marquette to the point he can turn over both shoulders to shoot while using a variety of head and shot fakes to gain space from defenders. “I just had to be aggressive, keep going and keep going,” said Hauser. “I know my shots are going to fall if I keep shooting.”
When he was not scoring, Hauser found time to hand out five assists, second among the Golden Eagles to Rowsey, who finished with a game high eight helpers. “I’ve said it before that our team is at its best when Andrew is a distributor first and a scorer second,” said Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski. Rowsey entered the game eighth in the Big East with a 4.4 assist per game average. Rowsey assisted on a three-point basket by Hauser in the second half with a behind-the-back pass with his left (off) hand on a play that drew cheers from the more than 12,000 fans.
But Marquette also depends on Rowsey to score. With leading scorer Markus Howard watching the game in street clothes nursing an injured right hip he sustained in Marquette’s previous game against Creighton on February 17, Rowsey knew he would have to help pick up the scoring slack of Howard’s absence. The fifth-year senior from Lexington, Virginia did just that with a 19 point scoring night. Although shooting under 50 percent from the field, Rowsey picked his spots to score and his back-to-back midrange jumpers deep into the second half, the second of which pushed Marquette’s lead to 74-55, prompted a time out call from St. John’s Coach Chris Mullin and pretty much put a bow on the Marquette win.
In addition to the scoring outbursts of Hauser and Rowsey, Marquette got double-digit scoring games from sophomore Sacar Anim and freshmen Greg Elliott and Jamal Cain, all of whom finished with 11 points. “Our offensive balance was a big key to us winning the game,” said Wojciechowski. “We asked our guys to be aggressive and take what the defense gave us. I thought we shared the ball incredibly well. Twenty-two assists to 12 turnovers was really positive.”
Adding fellow freshman center Theo John to the mix of Elliott and Cain, Marquette’s freshmen threesome played at a highly efficient rate combining to score 29 points on 11 -of-19 shooting. Cain and Elliott teamed up to make all four of their three-point shots, and Cain’s triple just before the first half buzzer sounded gave Marquette a four-point cushion heading into intermission. “I have confidence in all three of them,” said Wojciechowski. “These kids have made great strides as players since the beginning of the year and all three of them had a significant impact on the game.”
Faced with the task of slowing down the red-hot Ponds, Wojciechowski tried to keep the emerging St. John’s star off balance by alternating between zone and man-to-man defenses. The approach worked as Ponds missed his first six shots of the game and was never able to establish footing on the offensive end. He finished making only five of eighteen shots and scoring 19 points. “Anytime you play a great player, it’s got to be a collective effort,” said the Marquette coach. “Our guys were locked in whether we were playing man or zone and that made life more difficult for him (Ponds.)” Hauser added that by changing defenses, Marquette was able “to throw him (Ponds) off a little here and there.”
The game was played on Al McGuire Night, a yearly event when Marquette honors its former NCAA Championship and Hall-of-Fame coach in its home game against St. John’s. A New York native, McGuire played at St. John’s before moving on to a short career in the NBA and then on to coaching. Barring a possible home game as part of the National Invitational Tournament, this was the penultimate game for Marquette at the Bradley Center, its home court for the last 30 years. Marquette ends the regular home season with a March 3 game against Creighton. The finishing touches are being put on a new arena just north of the Bradley Center that is scheduled to open next November that Marquette will share with the Milwaukee Bucks.
St. John’s attempts to get back on the winning track when it hosts Seton Hall on February 24.
This article was written by Tom Osowski, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can follow us on Facebook, or on twitter. We are looking for those interested in our basketball scout certification program. For information contact us and forward your resume.