Milwaukee, WI – Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski won a national defensive player of the year award as a player at Duke, but in the first weeks of this new college basketball season, his Golden Eagles are doing a better job of putting points on the scoreboard than they are keeping opponents from doing the same.
Breaking the century mark in points for the second game in a row, Marquette jumped out to a 23-point halftime lead and went on to defeat Houston Baptist 101-79 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Saturday night.
“I was very happy with how we played on the offensive end,” said Wojciechowski. “I was really pleased with the way we shared the ball.” Entering the game with the second highest assist average in the Big East Conference with 18 per game, the Golden Eagles easily eclipsed that figure by assisting on an impressive 25 of their 37 made field goals.
Allowing the Huskies to push up against the 80-point figure did not please the Marquette coach, but he was not pushing any panic buttons this early in the season, either. “We’re trying to build good defensive habits,” said Wojciechowski. “In order to build habits, you have to do things all the time. We’re very much a work in progress on the defensive end. We didn’t play defense the way we wanted to in the second half.”
Senior Luke Fischer, the anchor of the Marquette defense and the fulcrum of its offense, registered his sixth career double-double in scoring 22 points and pulling down 11 rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles in both categories. Fischer was especially energized in the first half scoring not only with his accustomed jump hook shots over both shoulders in the paint, but running the court as well to score in transition. Twice within a four-minute span midway through the first half, Fischer followed up teammate Haanif Cheatham missed shots on the break with two-handed dunks.
“Luke was a big-time presence for us tonight on the offensive end,” said Wojciechowski. “He did a great job attacking the offensive glass. Luke’s a veteran so when you see him play with strength and force, it gives everybody else confidence, and we need that from Luke.”
Fischer entered the game connecting on 70 percent of his field goal attempts, good enough for a tie for second in the Big East. He inched his way toward the top spot in the league on Saturday night making nine of ten tries from the field with his only miss a short shot that rimmed out.
Fischer’s night ended earlier than he planned when he was forced off the court and into the locker room for a short time after getting fouled with 6:40 left in the game. “I tweaked my (left) shoulder at the start of the season,” explained Fischer. “He (his defender) came down hard on my left arm and I felt a little pain. It’s been a recurring thing. Hopefully, it never happens again, but you can’t tell. I’m totally fine.”
While Fischer did most of the heavy lifting for Marquette in the first half, teammates Cheatham and Jujuan Johnson combined to provide the bulk of the second half scoring and joined Fischer in the plus-20 scoring club.
Cheatham is a slasher. A left-hand dominant player, he likes to drive the ball to his left attacking either from the top of the key, the left wing or along either baseline. He’s especially adept at penetrating along the baseline and contorting his body to score on both sides of the rim. A sophomore from Ft. Lauderdale, Cheatham finished with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting including making both of his three-point tries.
Playing off the bench, Johnson needed only 20 minutes of court time to score 22 points. A senior from Memphis, Johnson scores at all three levels, but like Cheatham, his go-to move is driving the ball to the basket. Johnson especially likes to drive the ball to his right or receive a pass cutting to the basket to his right. He uses his 6-5 frame to finish in the lane either by shooting over a shorter defender or fading back to create space from a taller or secondary defender. Johnson has softened his shot in his four years at Marquette to the point he’s comfortable and highly effective shooting his runners off glass and sometimes high off glass to beat a weak side shot blocker.
Inserted into the starting line-up for the first time all season, redshirt junior guard Duane Wilson connected on only 1-of-5 shots in scoring two points. But in registering five assists without a turnover, both Wojciechowski and Fischer had praise for Wilson’s play. “I’m really pleased with Duane’s decision making and ability to impact the game without scoring,” said Wojciechowski. “Even though he didn’t shoot well tonight, he played a real good floor game and made good decisions.” Wilson, a Milwaukee native who averaged over 11 points per game last season, brought an 8.6 ppg scoring average into the HBU game on 62 percent field goal shooting.
The good news for HBU was that five Huskies ended the game as double-figure scorers. The bad news was that 12 was the high scoring mark for any of the five Huskies.
Josh Ibarra and Asa Cantwell hit the twelve-point figure for HBU. At 6-11 and 250 pounds, Ibarra is a load to guard for most college centers. He opened the HBU scoring by bullying Fischer to score on an uncontested shot at the rim. But unable to defend Fischer without fouling, he saw his playing time limited by fouls and spent only 20 minutes on the court. Ibarra did all his work in the paint and shot an efficient 6-for-10 from the floor in scoring his dozen points.
Entering the game shooting a blistering .438 percentage from behind the three-point arc, Cantwell found the Bradley Center rims to his liking. He connected on 4-of-6 shots from distance, all the shots he took in the game. While he had a couple of open looks, the 6-3 Cantwell shot mostly with a Marquette defender’s hand in his face or from behind the longer NBA three-point arc or both.
Brothers Will and Jalon Gates came off the bench to score seven and three points, respectively, for HBU. Normally those kinds of point totals are not necessarily noteworthy in a high-scoring game like this one, but in this case, the brothers are the sons of Will Gates, Sr., who played on the same Bradley Center floor for Marquette in the 1980s. Longtime hoops fans may remember Gates’ name from the acclaimed 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams” that told the on-and-off court story of Gates and Arthur Agee, teammates from St. Joseph’s High School in Westchester, Illinois.
The victory improved Marquette’s record to 4-2 as it heads into a November 30 contest with Western Carolina in Milwaukee. The Huskies resume play the same day returning to Houston for a game with intra-city opponent Rice.
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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