Milwaukee, WI – Marquette honored Andrew Rowsey, its only senior, prior to its final regular season home game against Creighton on Saturday afternoon. About two hours later, Rowsey repaid the gesture by knocking down three three-point shots from well behind the arc in the last four minutes of the game to lead the Golden Eagles to a much needed 85-81 victory over the Blue Jays.
The first of Rowsey’s long triples was the most impressive. Finding himself unguarded about two-thirds into the shot clock from 35 feet from the basket with four minutes left in a tight game, Rowsey let fire and swished a jumper to extend Marquette’s lead to 73-69. A fifth-year senior who played his first two collegiate seasons at North Carolina-Asheville, Rowsey launched his shot with both feet positioned on the insignia designating the Bradley Center floor as the “Al McGuire Court” in honor of former Marquette and Hall of Fame Coach Al McGuire. Asked what prompted him to shoot from so far out with time left on the shot clock to work for a shot opportunity closer to the rim, Rowsey smiled and answered, “I was open.” Spoken like a true shooter.
Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski, who has seen Rowsey shoot his team in and out of games the past two years–but mostly into them–joked about the shot as well. “I was hoping Coach McGuire was looking down from heaven and would help that ball find the bottom of the net,” he said. “I think Coach McGuire was probably watching down on that shot, which is always a good thing.”
But after Creighton’s Khyri Thomas converted two free throws on the Blue Jays’ next possession to cut the lead to two points, Rowsey answered with a second triple from roughly the same 35-foot distance, this time off the dribble, to extend the Marquette lead to 76-71. Creighton answered again, this time with a Marcus Foster lay-up to make it a one possession game. Pushing the ball upcourt, Rowsey pulled up from well above the top of the circle and splashed a third long-distance shot to bump the Marquette lead to 79-73 and pretty much end Creighton’s comeback bid as the sellout crowd of over 18.000 cheered wildly.
Not only was this Rowsey’s last home game in a Marquette uniform, but it was also the last time Marquette would play in the Bradley Center after calling the downtown arena its home the last 30 years. Along with the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association, Marquette will transition into a new arena for the 2018-19 season.
With a contingent of family and friends making the journey from Rowsey’s hometown of Lexington, Virginia to Milwaukee to share in his last home game experience, Rowsey said he had given considerable thought during the week of how the game might play out. “I thought of 100 different ways it could go,” he said. “I loved the way it went.”
Along with sophomores Markus Howard and Sam Hauser, Rowsey is a member of a Marquette triumvirate of players who combine to average 55 points per game, the most of any three players on any one team in the country. As is usually the case when Marquette comes away with a “W,” all three players made huge impacts on the game. In addition to Rowsey’s team-high 26 points, Howard and Hauser heated up in the second half and finished with 25 and 18 points, respectively. “Andrew, Marcus and Sam took turns putting us on their backs,” said Wojciechowski.
Howard picked a perfect time for Marquette to heat up as the Golden Eagles saw their five point deficit at halftime bleed out to 11 four minutes into the second half. The native of Chandler, Arizona with the same range to his jumper as Rowsey and a 52-point game outburst to his credit this season, Howard scored 11 of Marquette’s next 15 points to draw the Golden Eagles to within one point at 56-55. He scored on a runner and followed that up by knocking down three triples, all of them somewhat contested and one of them highly contested when he quickened his release shooting over the 6-10 wingspan of Thomas, a lock down defender who shared the Big East’s defensive player of the year award last season.
“I was just living in the moment,” said Howard who was celebrating his 19th birthday on Saturday. “Coach has some choice words for us at halftime to get us fired up. It was our last time in the Bradley Center and Andrew’s last game. I was trying to do what I could to help my team out of a funk.” Asked what went through his mind when Rowsey pulled up from way behind the arc, Howard smiled and said, “Nothing about Andrew surprises me. No shot is a terrible shot for Andrew. He’s helped me improve as a player and hopefully I’ve helped him as well.”
Hauser rebounded from a slow start to score his 18 points in his typically efficient way. He made half of his 12 shots and shot 40 percent from distance making two of five attempts from behind the arc. There are not many players in the country who see their three-point shooting percentage decrease with a two-for-five game, but Hauser is one of them. The 6-8 combination forward leads the Big East with a 52 percent mark and entered the game second in the country in three-point accuracy to Connor Burchfield of William & Mary. Hauser scored 13 of his points after intermission and his nine rebounds led the Golden Eagles.
Wojciechowski speaks often about the importance of Rowsey’s playmaking ability to his team’s offense. Rowsey finished with a game high eight assists, the sixth time he’s totaled eight or more assists in a game this season. Marquette has won all six of those games. “Today was like any other game,” said Rowsey. “I try to play within the flow of the game and just read and react.”
The victory gave Marquette a sweep of its two games with Creighton this season, and extended the Golden Eagles winning steak over the Blue Jays to four games. “Obviously, I’m disappointed,” said Creighton Coach Greg McDermott. “We gave up 53 points to them in the second half of the game at our place and then 48 today. They were 10 for 12 on three-point shots (in the second half on Saturday) and that’s unheard of even if you are in a gym shooting by yourself.”
Along with the Rowsey-Howard backcourt duo Marquette runs out every game, Creighton’s guard combination of Thomas and Foster is one of the conference’s most potent pair. They combined to score 53 points and Thomas filled up the stat sheet with a team-leading nine rebounds and a game-high four steals. A native of Creighton’s home city of Omaha, Nebraska, Thomas is one of the country’s top two-way players at the off-guard position. At 6-3 with a 6-10 wingspan, Thomas is a disruptive defender. He uses his length and quickness to jump passing lanes to make steals off the ball and his quick hands to pilfer the ball from player he’s guarding. He showed off his improving offensive game scoring off the dribble and catch in making three of five shots from behind the arc and he played ahead of the Marquette defense in the first half throwing down three uncontested dunks. “Khyri had a good game and played well defensively,” said McDermott.
The loss dropped Creighton’s record to 20-10 and 10-8 in the Big East. With an impressive win against UCLA and a signature win over then #1 ranked Villanova on its resume, Creighton is considered a lock for an NCAA bid by most tournament observers. It’s a different story for Marquette. The victory raised the Golden Eagles’ record to 17-12 and 9-9 in the Big East. Most tournament pundits have Marquette on the wrong side of the bubble. Both teams head to New York for the Big East tournament this week with Creighton hoping to improve its probable tournament seed and Marquette hoping to win enough games to punch its ticket to the Big Dance.
With the Big East tournament starting on March 7, Marquette faces off with DePaul at 9:30 pm on March 7 in a first round game. Creighton’s first tournament game comes March 8 in a quarterfinal game against Providence at noon.
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.