Brooklyn, NY – A caution flag went up for the Marquette Golden Eagles when their star freshman and leading scorer Henry Ellenson left the bench and headed to the locker room early in the first half of their game Tuesday night against Arizona State for the championship of the Fan Duels Legends Classic at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
But after treatment for a left knee contusion suffered the night before in the Golden Eagles’ semi-final victory over LSU, Ellenson returned to the court and recorded his third double-double of his young Marquette career in leading the Golden Eagles to the tournament championship with a 78-73 overtime victory over the Sun Devils.
Ellenson scored 14 of his 18 points and collected five of his 11 rebounds after halftime to draw the praise of Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski. “Henry’s a terrific player,” said Wojciechowski. “He showed it tonight being on a big stage and making key, winning plays.”
Standing 6-11 with coat hanger shoulders and long arms that evokes body comparisons to longtime Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, Ellenson scores from all three areas of the court. Hoping to take advantage of his size against shorter Arizona State defenders, he established a workplace in the low post areas on Tuesday night and used a high shot release and feathery touch to score.
While not the kind of move that figures to pop up on any highlight show, Ellenson made a pro move in a back-and-forth second half posting up a defender, turning over his right shoulder and converting a ten-foot turnaround jump shot. Ellenson runs the court well for a 6-11 big and later converted a contested lay-up through what he and the Marquette bench thought was enough contact to elicit a foul even though none was called. Like most good players, Ellenson made opponents pay for fouling him by stepping to the free throw line and knocking down all six of his attempts.
“He (Ellenson) has been great for us,” said Marquette sophomore guard Duane Wilson. “He brings a lot of versatility. He’s tough and he sucked it up to play hurt to help us get this win.”
By averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds for the two games and helping lead Marquette to its two wins, Ellenson was named to the all-tournament team and awarded the tournament most valuable player trophy.
Joining Ellenson on the all-tournament team was teammate Luke Fischer, a 6-11 center whose eyes must light up when he sees an Arizona State uniform across from him. A mid-season transfer from Indiana University who gained eligibility at Marquette on December 12 of the 2014-15 season, Fisher started his Marquette career on that date by scoring 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting, collecting nine rebounds and blocking five shots in leading Marquette to a 78-71 win against the Sun Devils in Milwaukee.
Marquette’s went early and often to Fischer against Arizona State and the Milwaukee area native responded by scoring 12 first half points. Perhaps equally as important, he drew three fouls on Sun Devils’ center Eric Jacobsen to force him to the bench for 16 minutes of the first half.
A traditional big with a strong back to the basket game, Fischer has the skill set to play for pay one day. A two-time Wisconsin state champion as a prep in the largest class of schools, Fischer is tough to guard. He uses both hands to score around the cup, is equally comfortable working on both blocks and elevates quickly to play above the rim. He shoots a soft hook shot with both hands to beat opposing shot blockers and rarely takes an ill-advised shot. After making 6-of-12 shots against the Sun Devils, Fischer had connected on 26-of-40 shots in impressive 65 percent shooting through the first five Marquette games.
In addition to winning the tournament championship, Marquette may also have found itself a point guard as freshman Traci Carter, inserted into the starting line-up against LSU on Monday night for the first time all season, followed up a strong game against the Tigers by scoring 13 points, collecting four rebounds and leading the Golden Eagles with four assists and three steals against the Sun Devils.
A pass-first point guard, Carter scored all his points in the second half and was trusted by Wojciechowski to take his team’s final shot with the score tied 67-67 at the end of regulation play. Carter’s three pointer was off, but the Philadelphia native converted 3-of-4 free throws in the overtime session to help Marquette to the win.
“Traci Carter had a huge two days here,” said Wojciechowski. “As good as his floor game was today, even more important is the enthusiasm he plays with. It’s infectious. That’s who he is.”
With Jacobson in foul trouble all night and playing only seven minutes before fouling out, Arizona State was still almost able to ride its smaller line-up to the win. After a Carter misfire with about 11 seconds left in regulation, the Sun Devils collected the rebound and forward Savon Goodman advanced the ball up court. With about seven seconds left in the game, Goodman, thinking he clock was down to its final ticks, forced a runner in the paint that drew only air and landed out of bounds.
“I don’t think Savon had a clear feel about the time remaining,” said Arizona State Coach Bobby Hurley. “But that play had no impact on the outcome of the game. There was no guarantee were going to score there.”
After scoring 21 points and collecting 16 rebounds in Arizona State’s semi-final win over North Carolina State, the high-energy Goodman found the going tougher against Marquette. Held to two points in the first half while spending much of the first 20 minutes on the bench with foul issues, Goodman finished with nine points before fouling out in 25 minutes of play.
The Sun Devils were led by sophomore Tra Holder, a point guard with range behind the three-point arc and quickness to get into the paint most any time he wants. Held in check by Marquette most of the first half, Holder erupted for all seven of his first-half points in the final three minutes of the half to help the Sun Devils to a 36-33 halftime lead. He finished with 15 points and was named to the all-tournament team.
“I thought both teams competed at a high level,” said Hurley. “Marquette made a few more plays than we did down the stretch. Offensively, we’re still a work in progress. We aren’t there yet.”
A sidebar to the Marquette–Arizona State match-up was the shared playing backgrounds of both coaches. Hurley still holds the NCAA career assists record playing four years at Duke before embarking on an NBA career ended prematurely by an car accident. Wojciechowski followed Hurley as the Duke point guard, manning the position four years and playing with the skill and determination to earn recognition as the defensive player of the year in one of those years.
Both coaches paid compliments to the other in their postgame comments.
“I respect what he did as a player,” said Hurley of Wojciechowski. “He played the (point guard) position with tenacity and fire and his team played that way tonight. I’m happy he’s doing well.”
“Bobby was an idol of mine, someone I admired and looked up to,” said Wojciechowski. “Bobby is one of the best competitors in the history of college basketball, but more importantly, he’s a hell of a person.”
Marquette limped into the Fan Duel Legends Classic licking its wounds after a humbling 89-61 defeat to Iowa on November 19. It returns home to Milwaukee a different team grateful to be on the right side of the .500 mark at 3-2 after a challenging start to the season. Three of Marquette’s first five opponents participated in last season’s NCAA tournament and all of them were preseason favorites to return to the Big Dance this season.
“I thought our guys were terrific,” said Wojciechowski. “In the 72 hours between Iowa and playing here, we had to look into the mirror and decide who we wanted to be. We played hungry and hard and made a huge commitment to the game and to each other.”
“No season goes in a straight line,” continued the Marquette coach. “You have to respond to situations in the right way. I thought we responded the right way here.”
Both Wojciechowski and Hurley had to massage playing rotations with the game being called with a tight whistle. Fifty-one fouls were called on both teams, five players fouled out (four from Arizona State) and three others had four fouls each when the final horn blew.
Asked about the foul calls that plagued his team, Hurley pondered the question and considered his words carefully before saying, “I don’t know where to start with it. Maybe I should leave it at that. It’s hard to imagine your opponent shooting 39 foul shots. That’s an astronomical number.”
“Both teams had to juggle rotations,” said Wojciechowski who can be very animated at times addressing referees after a foul whistled against one of his players. “Probably most of the fouls called were fouls. You have to adjust.”
Marquette gets back into action on November 29 when it hosts Jackson State. Arizona State resumes play on November 29 when the University of California at Santa Barbara visits Tempe to take on the Sun Devils.
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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