Newark, NJ – Hidden away in a Fiserv Forum locker room at halftime with his Marquette team trailing Providence 33-25, Sam Hauser and his teammates missed out on the on-court ceremony honoring former Marquette star Dwyane Wade, who announced in the fall that he will end his 16-year run through the NBA upon the conclusion of the current season. But Wade’s presence in the arena did something to inspire the Golden Eagles to get back to their high-scoring ways in the second half, and rallying behind Hauser, Marquette more than doubled its scoring output from the first half in the game’s final 20 minutes to go on to defeat the Friars 79-68 before a sellout crowd of over 17,000 fans.
Coming off a 31-point explosion in which he put the Golden Eagles on his back in a victory over Georgetown in Marquette’s previous game, Hauser scored 20 of his 25 points after intermission to help Marquette to the victory and improve its record to 16-3 and 5-1 in the Big East. “Sam was incredible…Sam is incredible,” said Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski. “He’s one of the the top players in the country, and in the last two games he’s really stepped up for us in a monumental way. We don’t ever come close to winning this game without Sam Hauser.”
Unlike Wade, who spent much of his time playing above the rim in a Marquette uniform, Hauser does his best work from behind the three point arc. Connecting on over 38 percent of his shots from distance and tied for eighth in the big East with 44 made triples entering the contest, Hauser got his long distance game going in the second half when he made 3-of-4 attempts. Hauser’s sweet spot from behind the arc is the left wing area. He’ll fire from there, or anywhere from behind the arc, both early in the shot clock with the defense in scramble mode and late in the clock usually slipping or popping out of a screen and finding open space behind the stripe. His triple at the left wing off a pass from Markus Howard with three minutes left in the game increased the Marquette lead to 72-61, raised the noise level considerably and prompted a time out call by Providence Coach Ed Cooley.
Earlier in the second half, with Marquette and Providence taking turns with the lead, Hauser took his game to the midrange area where he posted up defenders three times on the left low-to-mid block area and came away with three productive outcomes. He used his 6-8 size and good length to first score over the top of his defender, gained an angle on his defender the next time to bank in a shot with his left (off) hand and then lifted his defender with a shot fake to draw a foul and get to the free throw line where he converted two shots.
As usual, Hauser was hesitant to take much credit for his performance. “Obviously, any time you have a game like that (against Georgetown), you’re going to have more confidence in your game,” he said. “It’s been a great two-game stretch for us as a team. We just have to keep it rolling.”
As has often been the case this season, Hauser, a junior, has gotten solid support in both the scoring column and on the backboards from his brother, Joey Hauser, a 6-9 freshman. He combined with his brother to help their high school team to two Wisconsin large-school state championships in their prep days. Joey plays with a maturity and pace associated more with a senior than a freshman. Making over 49 percent of his field goal attempts on the season, Joey was his usual efficient self against the Friars making 4-of-5 shots including both his shots from distance in scoring 11 points. In a five-minute span late in the second half, the Hauser brothers spearheaded a Marquette run by combining to score 19 of the 23 points the Golden Eagles scored as they expanded a 54-51 lead to a 77-66 advantage.
“Obviously, they (Sam and Joey) have amazing chemistry,” said Wojciechowski. “They play really, really well together. They are two young men who have a history of winning a lot of basketball games going back to high school. Their priority is to win basketball games, and it’s not that way with all players.” Cooley added that “the Hausers make them (Marquette) really tough because they can spread the floor.”
Having set the bar incredibly high for himself with scoring games this season of 53, 45 and 45, Howard had a rare poor shooting game. He connected on only4-of-15 shots from the field, but like most top scorers, Howard supplemented his scoring at the free throw line where he converted on 14-of-16 attempts. Having witnessed one of Howard’s offensive eruptions in person last season when he went off for 52 points in a Marquette overtime victory at Providence, Cooley and his Friars were able to hold Howard under his average this game by changing defenses, especially in the first half, and doubling Howard in some ball defensive schemes. “It’s the Big East, man,” said Wojciechowski. “Providence is good and those kids can defend. You’re not going to have your typical shooting day. I know we’ve seen him (Howard) put a cape on at different times, but his shooting was kind of what we expected it to be.”
Howard was limited to playing only the first three minutes of the Georgetown game because of a back injury. With back injuries often being a tricky thing, there was no guarantee Howard would be able to play against Providence five days after the Georgetown game. But the 5-11 junior guard warmed up with what looked to be his usual energy and gave Wojciechowski almost 37 minutes on Sunday. “They (Howard and fellow-injured teammate Ed Morrow) were able to do some stuff yesterday in practice and were able to do enough for us to know they would be able to play,” said the Marquette coach.
The loss continued a slow start to conference play for Providence and dropped their record to 11-7 and 1-4 in the Big East. But the Friars came out with energy against Marquette. They limited dribble penetration, did a nice job bottling up Howard and protected the paint in the first half. It was not until the 4:31 mark of the first half until the Golden Eagles scored their first two-point basket, a free throw line jump shot by Sam Hauser. Marquette’s 25-point scoring output in the first half represented the fewest points scored by Marquette in the first half all season.
Providence also imposed its will on both backboards in the first half. A long and athletic team, Providence was quicker to balls off the rim than Marquette and went into halftime with a 27-14 rebounding advantage. Providence gave Marquette an up-close look at why it came into the game as the top offensive rebounding team in the Big East by outrebounding Marquette 9-0 on the offensive glass in the first half.
Providence’s junior wing Alpha Diallo showed Marquette fans why he was selected to the first All-Big East preseason team. Moving well off the ball, especially along the baseline in a type of flex offense Providence ran much of the game, Diallo freed himself for catches in the paint. He scored 12 points in the first half making 5-of-9 shots. He collected a loose ball in the Providence backcourt in the first half and beat Marquette defenders to the rim for a flush finish. But saddled with foul problems and finding open looks harder to come by in the second half, Diallo was limited to four second-half points and finished with 16.
Sophomore center Nate Watson picked up the scoring slack for Providence in the second half. After stepping out to the elbow area to knock down a jump shot to score the first two points of the game, the 6-10 Watson moved down to the low block area and scored mostly out of back-to-the basket moves. Backing down his defender, the right-handed shooting Watson scored with jump shots and hooks over his left shoulder. When a Marquette defender forced Watson to his right out of a post-up, he spun hard over his right shoulder and finished with a two-hand dunk. “Watson is a hell of a player,” said Wojciechowski. “He’s wide, strong and plays real hard. They did a nice job of feeding him and he did a nice job of establishing deep post position.” Watson tied his career high with 21 points.
“Life on the road in the Big East is tough,” said the always forthright Cooley. “I thought for the first 34 minutes today we played well. They have a great home court advantage here. I thought our youth showed tonight. This was a 100 percent winnable game on the road. All these Big East games come down to the last four minutes. We’re 1-4 and mistakes right now are killing the Friars. But I have no complaints. Hopefully, the Patriots can win to pick up my spirits.”
After his Miami Heat team played in Chicago on Saturday night, Wade and his family make the 90-mile drive north to Milwaukee for Sunday’s festivities. “Today was an incredible day for Dwyane to come back and allow us to celebrate what he means to Marquette University and Marquette basketball,” said Wojciechowski. “He’s a first-class, elite guy and we were so happy to be able to do this for him today. I spoke with Dwyane after the game and he said the day was beyond what he could have hoped for.”
Both teams return to Big East action on January 23. Marquette concludes a two-game homestand against DePaul while Providence continues a two-game road trip at Xavier.