Marquette: Figuring Out Ways to Lose

The Marquette Golden Eagles are a young, tough team that, sadly, finds ways to throw games away. Now 16-10, 5-8 in Big East Play, Marquette lost a tough one to Creighton Saturday and not even the winning coach was happy at how his team won. Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott said his team played poorly; MU Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski wasn’t pleased either, evident in his remarks after the game.

“I know we have three freshmen and a sophomore whatever on the court at the end of the game, but 25 games in out of a timeout you have to try to do what we want to do and if it doesn’t work then that’s on me,” Wojciechowski said. “But you’ve got to try to do it. Not doing it is not acceptable.”

He’s talking about the final seconds of the game. After a timeout, with a two point lead, Wojciechowski has drawn up a play that would involve either Freshman Henry Ellenson or Junior Luke Fischer. But, the players on the court didn’t event attempt to run the play.

It vanished as soon as the ball came into play.

Marquette doesn’t get a shot, Creighton gets the ball, runs back down the court, pops a 3-pointer and that’s all she wrote for the Golden Eagles…after a few more miscues including another missed shot, a failed attempt at a rebound and then a foul.

Slim hopes to make the NCAA Tournament now and lots of Marquette faithful lamenting the possible leaving of Ellenson for the draft.

Marquette Wins a Heart-Stopper

My heart stopped 3 times during the Marquette Golden Eagles versus #20 Providence Friars double overtime thriller February 10th. It usually stops once during Marquette games…but the extra ten minutes forced some added value for the Marquette Faithful and a great 96-91 victory.

Heart Stop #1: After Providence turned the ball over with the game tied and 2 seconds left, Freshman Henry Ellenson gets his hands on the ball. There are 20 scouts at the game from 12 NBA teams. Ellenson has already put on a game for them showing he has the mid-range game, the ability to control the entire court and rebounding skills. He already had his 15th double-double of the season before getting the ball in his hands. At half court, he lobs it and it hits the backboard, hits the rim and pushes out.

I can’t breathe.

Ellenson finishes the game, by the way, with 26 points, 16 rebounds.

Heart Stop #2: Near the end of the first overtime, Ellenson fouls Providence forward Ben Bentil during a 3-point attempt. Bentil already has 4 three-pointers. He finished with 42 points.

You read that right.

Providence scored 91 for the game…42 came from Bentil. As their Head Coach Ed Colley said after the game, you can’t win on the back of a single player. Yet, Providence almost did.

He makes all the shots, but MU still leads by two. You think Marquette would win…Providence would have to foul? Nope…Sophomore Sandy Cohen misses a shot, Freshman Haanif Cheatham gets the rebound and instead of dribbling out, tries to lay it back in and misses. Providence gets the ball, Marquette fouls Jalen Lyndsey who makes both free throws and ties the game.

I feel my heart exploding.

Heart Stop #3: With Marquette up by as many as seven in the second overtime, we watch the game start to slip away as Bentil makes back-to-back and almost a third 3 pointer! Luckily, he doesn’t.

My heart jumps out of my chest.

Ellenson said it best post game. The Golden Eagles are playing desperate. That will can win games.
It can also cause all of us to need to see our doctors

Golden Eagles Beat Butler But It’s Not Enough

This was the Golden Eagles team we all expected this year. 52% on field goals, 59% from 3-point-land, 81% from the charity stripe, 12 blocks; ok, the “blocks” stat was an added perk. Marquette beating Butler 75-69 January 30th was HUGE (said in best Trump impersonation), but…here’s my cold water toss into your face: It’s a little too late.

Yes, Henry Ellenson FINALLY showed why he’s an All-American and why he COULD be a draft pick. 32 points on 8-14 shooting, 14-16 from the line and 2-2 from three. And only one foul…which for me is really important since he manages nearly 2 offensive fouls per game and I found that to be quite concerning. He was a MONSTER against Butler and it was great. It was a huge turnaround from the game against Stetson where he slept through the second half.

Yes, Tracy Carter appeared to have a fire lit under him as he popped 5-7 from behind the arc for all his points for the game. Add the four assists behind Jujuan Johnson’s six and we see a team that is clicking just in time for a run towards the Big East Conference and the NCAA Tournament.

Yes, Luke Fischer was scoreless during the game but put up a hell of defense down the stretch and with Ellenson swatted Butler 11 of the 12 times away from basket. Marquette could have used the scoring but needed the defense as they nearly let the lead slip away in the second half.

And therein lies the rub. Marquette can play a great 20 minutes. It’s the second 20 minutes that has me worried about the rest of the season. The Golden Eagles find ways to lose. There are 9 games left. Four at home: Providence, Creighton, Villanova and Georgetown. Away games: Seton Hall, Xavier, DePaul, Creighton and Butler to end the regular season. Only one-game stands out as a sure-bet: DePaul. Except, they beat Marquette at home January 20th…and a minority of the Marquette faithful started calling for Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski’s ouster.

If Marquette plays like they did against Butler and picks-up the pace in the second-half of games, they could win seven of those nine. I’m Catholic. I have faith. I’m also a glutton for punishment.

(photo) Ellenson after the game talking about how how he knew he had a bad outing against Stetson and needed to turn it around against Butler.

Have Mercy on the Young

I’m not surprised at the outcome of the two games last week for the Marquette Golden Eagles. It doesn’t make it easier to stomach, though. Taking on #6 Villanova in Philly and then #7 Xavier in Milwaukee wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. What makes the losses difficult to take were the moments of brilliance by the young Golden Eagles followed by the horrid display of youth.

I’ll make it easy: against ‘Nova and Xavier, Marquette went on scoring droughts that mimic near-apocalyptic events in desert regions of Africa where we see dying, starving children and want to send them milk cartons filled with coins that we saved. Against Xavier, after a brilliant start and an 18-6 lead, we watched the Golden Eagles score zero points for 8 minutes and Xavier go on a 21-0 run.

No change in a milk carton can help the starving Golden Eagles with that.

We also watched the 1-3-1 zone from Xavier befuddle Marquette for most of the game as none of Marquette’s guards could feed the ball into Luke Fischer or Henry Ellenson after getting 10 of their first 12 that way in the first half; remember, that’s Marquette’s plan each and every game since the Golden Eagles have no outside shooting game. For some perspective on that, Marquette shot 24-70 for the game against Xavier, 4 for 25 from behind the three-point line.

You read that right. Making matters worse, more than half of those three-point shots were wide open.

“The really tough teams don’t make excuses when they are not making shots,” Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “We may not be that good of a shooting team. We have to figure out ways to win when we are not making shots. That’s the end of the story.”

Fischer getting 3 fouls in the first half didn’t help much since he had to sit from the five minute mark on. He eventually fouled out. We did see moments of brilliance from him when the ball could be fed to him, but he was overpowered by Xavier Senior forward James Farr. Marquette lost 74-66.

Ellenson did manage 20 points in the game and we did see a huge spark from his brother Wally who had a career game coming off the bench; in 20 minutes he had 9 points and 8 rebounds. Xavier did manage 15 turnovers and Marquette did show it could hang with the big boys…it wasn’t a blowout. Marquette also went into the half against ‘Nova last week up one point only to get stuck in a scoring drought as well.

Look, ‘Nova and Xavier are possible Final Four teams. I would have been more shocked if Marquette had beaten either of them. Luckily, DePaul comes to the Bradley Center Wednesday. I’ll be shocked if Marquette blows that one.

The Ups and Downs of Young Teams

Marquette went into halftime against St. John’s down 8 points on Saturday January 9th, 2016. After starting out fast and strong, St. John’s showed they had an outside game and a way to manage Marquette’s ability to get into the paint: force turnovers and, unfortunately, offensive fouls. The later hit Henry Ellenson with about 8 minutes left in the first half, forcing him to sit out until the second half. He had two offensive fouls quickly. It’s a problem that has plagued the freshman All-American since the season started.

“You drill him (in practice) for him to recognize the situation,” said Head Coach Steve Wojociechowski. “In the second half he had a double-double … that’s pretty darn good!”

I want to point out that during the 8 or so minutes Ellenson wasn’t in the game, Freshman Matt Heldt picked-up his game and helped keep Marquette in it. He gets better each time he’s on the court. Something to really watch.

That second half bounce back by Ellenson, as well as double digit scoring from Junior Luke Fischer, Freshman Haanif Cheatham and Freshman Duane Wilson as well as getting to the charity stripe 21 times, proved to be the winning element against St. John’s. 10 of the final points for Marquette came from free-throws where Marquette shot 89% for the game.

Wilson shot 4-9 from well behind the three-point line…even from well behind the NBA mark.

When I asked Wilson if he knew how far back he was when he took the shots: “Not really.”

It was “Al’s Day” for the Golden Eagles and Marquette faithful; a day to honor the legendary Al McGuire. McGuire went to St. John’s for his collegiate career, making the win even more memorable for the Golden Eagles.

Listen to my full report:

Marquette won 81-75 and is now 2-2 in Big East play. This week, they face uphill battles against #6 Villanova Wednesday then #7 Xavier Saturday at home.