Milwaukee, WI – Marquette big Ed Morrow does not start. He rarely plays half the minutes of a game. And he entered Marquette’s game against rival Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee averaging five points per game, sixth best on the Golden Eagles. But with 35 seconds left in the second half and the score tied at 61, Morrow timed his jump perfectly to block a shot of Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ at the rim to keep the score knotted and send the game to overtime where Marquette took an early lead and held on to defeat the Badgers 74-69 before a sellout crowd of over 17,000 in Milwaukee’s new Fiserv Forum.
“Ed was huge throughout the whole game, but especially down the stretch,” said Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski. “Happ had a point blank lay-up and Ed made a great, great play. He keeps getting better and better and his fingerprints were all over this win.”
Morrow’s late-game denial of Happ was not the only standout play the native of Chicago and transfer from Nebraska made in the late stages of the game. With Marquette ahead by two points at just under the three-minute mark of regulation, Morrow pulled down an offensive rebound deep in the paint only to find himself surrounded by three Wisconsin defenders. It appeared Morrow lacked room to either shoot or pass, but Morrow created a sliver of space through the many arms above him to muscle the ball to the rim where it fell through to increase Marquette’s lead to 69-65. “There was a scrum under the basket and odds were we weren’t going to keep the ball,” said Wojciechowski. “Somehow Ed found a way to get it to the rim.”
And with nine seconds left in overtime and Marquette clinging to a three-point lead after three Golden Eagles had just combined to miss six straight free throw attempts in the previous two minutes, Morrow stepped to the line and drained two free throws to give Marquette the breathing room it needed to go on to the win. “We recruited Ed for a reason,” said Marquette wing Sam Hauser. “He’s about winning and doing things right. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
While Morrow did much of the late-game heavy lifting for Marquette, he had ample help from tipoff to buzzer from teammates Sam Hauser, Joey Hauser and Markus Howard. As is often the case in a Marquette victory, Sam stuffed the stat sheet. He scored 13 points, collected a game-high 14 rebounds and found time to hand out a team-high four assists. Sam plays at a steady pace, is a low-mistake player and provides a steady presence. If it is possible for a team’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder, as Sam is for Marquette, to be the teams best glue guy as well, then Sam is that player.
“In my opinion, Sam is one of the most underappreciated players in the United States,” said Wojciechowski. “Three things about Sam: the kid is all about winning; the kid is all about winning; and the kid is all about winning. And he’s an absolute joy to coach.” Sam connected on two of three shots from distance shooting as he does with a high release that helps him beat even the hardest of closeouts. He scored two times with midrange jump shots using his 6-8 frame to shoot over shorter Wisconsin defenders who had switched on to him. And on the one rare time when the seas of the Wisconsin defense parted, Hauser drove the ball to the basket from the left wing and scored at the rim.
Joey started the season slowly coming off an ankle injury that robbed him of his senior season in high school. Promoted to a starting role after the first three games of the season, Joey is showing the makings of being the reliable third scorer every team needs. He scored efficiently against Wisconsin putting up 15 points on five of eight shooting including making three of five shots from behind the arc. Joey’s biggest basket may have come at the 3:25 mark in regulation when he slipped a screen at the left wing, found space in the left corner and connected on a three-point shot to give Marquette a 59-57 lead. He helped Marquette off to a quick start in the extra session by driving along the left baseline and using the rim for protection to score on the other side of the basket to post the game’s first overtime points. “His (Sam’s) younger brother (Joey) is starting to find his footing, which is great,” said the Marquette coach. “We’re going to need him to evolve into a real good player which is something he’s capable of doing.”
Howard, Marquette’s dynamo of a scoring guard, led the Golden Eagles with 27 points. But unlike when he went off for 45 points against Kansas State one week earlier, Howard needed a lot of shots to get his points against the Badgers. Entering the game shooting 43 percent from the field and 36 percent from distance, the junior made seven of twenty-nine shots including only one of seven from behind the arc. Despite misfiring on two straight free throws in overtime, Howard was his usual strong-shooting self at the free throw line where he knocked down 12 of 15 attempts.
Marquette was able to withstand a fantastic game from Happ, a 6-10 redshirt senior and stat-stuffer supreme. Happ did big-time work in a number of offensive categories to bring the Badgers to the brink of victory. He made 16 of 21 shots in scoring a game and career-high 34 points, collected a team-high 11 rebounds, made a game-high three steals and found time to assist on four teammates’ baskets. “Ethan Happ is an handful,” said Wojciechowski. “He’s one of the truly great players of college basketball. Guys like that don’t come around very often.”
Happ has a unique game that is difficult to fit into any one category. It’s convenient to say he has an “old-school” game, but there could not have been many players from previous generations who had Happ’s footwork, quickness, ballhandling skills and ability to use both hands. He’s not only quick off the bounce for a big, but he’s quick off the bounce for any current collegiate player regardless of size. He can face up a defender and attack him off the bounce, or he can post up a defender and use his quickness to spin off of him to score. Happ executed a tight spin dribble with his right hand at the right elbow and finished with his left hand at the rim in a play that drew “ahs” from many Marquette fans who made up a vast majority of the crowd to give Wisconsin an early 10-9 lead. A right-hand dominant player, Happ finishes as much with his left hand as with his right, and because he can utilize different release points when shooting, he beats most would-be shot blockers. He was not able to sneak his shot past Morrow in the last minute on Saturday afternoon, but that was more a case of a good offensive move getting beat by a better defensive play.
“I know we didn’t play our best today,” said Happ, clearly dejected in addressing the media. “It doesn’t matter to me about individual stats. There’s plenty of stuff we’ll see on the clips that we could have done better, and that includes me.”
“Obviously, I’m extremely disappointed by the end result,” said Gard. “We didn’t play well enough. Give credit to Marquette for causing some of that. The effort was there, but I think we’ve got to continue to improve at some of the intangibles and some of the things that are controllable.”
Wisconsin was in possession of the ball with about 30 second left in regulation with the score tied at 61 when sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice appeared to pull up for a jump shot from the left wing. But he changed his mind in mid-jump and his pass to Happ rolling to the basket came too late for the Wisconsin big to see and get a hand up to catch. The pass floated out of bounds. “Initially, I thought I had the shot, but a big came up on me and Ethan thought I was going to shoot it,” said Trice.
The win boosted Marquette’s record to 8-2. After beating then-12th ranked Kansas State last Saturday, Marquette has now followed up that win with a victory over Wisconsin, this week’s 12th ranked team. With most players returning from last year’s high-octane offense, low-resistance defense returning to Marquette this season, most preseason predictions had Marquette continuing as a high-scoring team that would struggle to defend. “We’re a different team this year,” said Wojciechowski. “We should be gaining confidence to win games in different ways. To be able to win games that aren’t necessarily very artistic, I think that’s important too.”
Marquette takes ten days off for exams before returning on December 18 to host North Dakota. The Badgers return to action on December 13 when they take on Savannah State in Madison.
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.