Milwaukee, WI – Moving his Marquette basketball team into a new downtown arena, incorporating two transfers and two freshmen into his playing rotation and preparing his team for one of the school’s most challenging non-conference schedules in recent years are enough for Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski to concern himself with in the opening weeks of the new college basketball season. Worrying about the accuracy of the jump shot of his point guard, junior Markus Howard, will not be one of his concerns.
After struggling through a five-for-sixteen shooting night in Marquette’s season opening victory over Maryland-Baltimore County on November 6, Howard re-discovered his sweet shooting stroke on Saturday afternoon as he connected on ten of sixteen shots, including seven of ten from behind the three-point line, in leading the Golden Eagles to a 92-59 victory over Bethune-Cookman in the Fiserv Forum, the school’s new arena it shares with the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA.
“Markus is an explosive offensive player,” said Wojciechowski. “I was never concerned about his shooting. He got it going and really created some separation in the game early. Markus’s shooting was pretty good today.”
After misfiring on his first two field goal attempts, Howard switched on the ignitable gene he has so often put on display in his first two seasons in a Marquette uniform. Shooting mostly off the dribble and mostly from the left half of the court in the first half, Howard drained six of his final eight first half shot attempts. When Bethune-Cookman defenders fouled Howard in their attempts to slow him down, Howard stepped to the free throw line and drained ten of eleven foul shots to finish an efficient first half of scoring with 26 points on only ten field goal attempts.
Scoring often and efficiently is nothing new for Howard, a 5-11, fast-twitch muscled guard from Chandler, Arizona. He connected on over 40 percent of his three-point shots and over 93 percent of his free throw attempts last season en route to averaging 20.4 points per game. Over a number of games spanning his freshman and sophomore seasons, Howard made 66 straight free throws. His 93-plus shooting percentage from the free throw line was second best in the country in 2017-18.
“Prior to the game, Coach Wojo and I talked a lot about me continuing to be aggressive,” said Howard. Taking on more play-making duties with the graduation of guard Andrew Rowsey, Howard said his coach is still looking for him to “maintain being aggressive.” Howard put his scoring instincts on display shortly upon walking onto the Marquette campus two years ago. He equaled a Big East Conference record by scoring 52 points in a Marquette win at Providence last season, followed up that game by scoring 37 points in a loss at eventual national champion Villanova and came into his junior season with a 18.8 point per game career scoring average.
Against the Wildcats from Daytona Beach, Florida, Howard put his complete scoring skill set on display. He knocked down shots from distance by creating space for his shot with jab step and step back dribble moves. He drained a three-point shot off the catch in transition. When defenders pressed up on him, Howard drove the ball to his right and left and made a circus-type shot with his left hand at the rim.
In an effort to expand his game, Howard is attacking the backboards with more gusto than he has in previous seasons. He grabbed eight rebounds in Marquette’s first game and followed that up by collecting eight more rebounds, a team high, against Bethune-Cookman. Asked if he expects to put up similar type of rebounding numbers all season, Howard said, “I hope so. Knowing that guards don’t really crash the board at my size, I want to bring a different dimension to my game.”
“When your point guard can defensive rebound, it’s a huge advantage for your team,” said Wojciechowski. “It’s usually a free rebound because most teams don’t send their point guards to the offensive glass. And when your point guard is rebounding, your fast break is usually faster.”
Bethune-Cookman was finishing up a two-game swing through the midwest having lost to DePaul in Chicago 80-58 on November 7. The Wildcats were led by the 17 points of senior Isaiah Bailey, a 6-6 wing with good length and instincts to score inside the three-point line. Taking all but one of his 18 shots from inside the arc, Bailey was his team’s best shot creator. He dribbled into mid-range jump shots and drove the ball in both directions to shoot floaters over the Marquette bigs. Although he mostly played facing the basket, Bailey also flashed a post-up game. He turned over his left shoulder to swish a ten-foot jumper in the first half. Like most good scorers, Bailey found his way to the free throw line as well and made seven of eight attempts.
One of the two transfers breaking into the Marquette rotation is Ed Morrow, a 6-7 junior from Chicago who played his first two collegiate seasons at Nebraska. Playing off the bench against Bethune-Cookman after starting the Maryland-Baltimore County game, Morrow showed a higher level of comfort in the Marquette offensive and defensive schemes. He scored eight points in just over 18 minutes, pulled down two rebounds and blocked three shots. One of those three blocks drew the praise of Wojceichowski in his post-game comments.
“The play of the game…do any of you (reporters) know what that was?” asked the Marquette coach. He proceeded to answer his own question by citing a chase-down block of Morrow’s at the 13.40 mark in the first half. “We turned it over and had three guys on the court quit on the play. We had one guy who didn’t and his name was Ed Morrow,” said Wojciechowski. “It was the ultimate hustle play and it changed the game significantly. That’s how we need Ed to play.”
Howard was selected to the first All Big East preseason team, and teammate and fellow junior Sam Hauser was selected to the second all league squad. Joey Hauser, Sam’s brother, was a top 100 recruit coming out of high school and is joining the Golden Eagles as a freshman this season. In 25 minutes off the bench on Saturday, Joey Hauser made half of his eight shots in scoring 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds. A 6-9 wing with developing ball handling skills and range to behind the three-point arc, Joey Hauser also found time to hand out a team-high six assists.
“I think I’m getting more comfortable with the college game,” said Joey Hauser. “We’re 2-0 and it’s all good so far. I played with Sam for two years in high school and it was an extremely fun time. Playing with your brother is not something everyone gets to experience.”
Marquette hits the road for its biggest challenge to date when it plays at Indiana on November 14 as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games that match teams from the Big East against teams from the Big Ten. Bethune-Cookman returns to action to face Trinity Baptist in its home opener on November 13.
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 apprenticeship program. For information contact us and forward your resume.