Heading into Saturday 5-4, Marquette needed to show signs of a significant bounce back. The Golden Eagles did just that in a pair of eviscerations against IUPUI and Ball State.
By no means are these quality wins. Both teams rank in the high 200s of the Ken Pom rankings and are generally pretty abysmal. However, the margins of victory, 36 vs. IUPUI and 38 vs. Ball State, certainly will boost Marquette's confidence at the very least.
The victory over New Hampshire early in the season provides an interesting comparison to these two blowouts. Against the Wildcats, a similarly high-200s Ken Pom team, Marquette struggled to shoot the ball with consistency and too often settled for outside shots. While the team converted 14 of its 30 two-point field goals in the game, it missed 19 of its 22 threes. Free throw shooting was also a problem, as Marquette left 13 points at the charity stripe. The Golden Eagles labored all game and barely hung on at the end for an embarrassing 58-53 win. Ken Pom dropped Marquette 17 spots in the rankings as a result.
Almost a month later many of the shooting woes seem to have resolved themselves. Against IUPUI Saturday, Marquette shot tremendously, converting 64 percent of its 48 two-point attempts. It also relied less on the three-point shot while making it an effective weapon (6-for-9). Juan Anderson made three of those long distance connections, and his inclusion in the shooting party may account for that spike. More on that in a moment.
Still, one of Marquette's biggest problems, free throw shooting, plagued it against against IUPUI. The Golden Eagles made just six of their 13 free throws in that game, and three came from the teams worst free throw shooter, Chris Otule.
Against Ball State however, Marquette took advantage of its trips to the foul line. The team converted 22-for-28 freebies for a stellar 78.6 percent. While just three of its nine three-point attempts found the net, the stellar 57.7 percent two-point shooting performance made this game another walk in the park.
Providence Progress Report Week 7
With only one game this week, the Friars were fortunate to stave off defeat at the hands of a Yale team that came to the Dunk prepared to live with a victory.
News and Notes:
- Todd Mayo may have a broken nose. He played just nine minutes Tuesday after suffering the injury, but is expected to play against New Mexico. He'll probably wear a mask. The nose injury is the latest set back in a disappointing junior season for Mayo. He has missed two of Marquette's most crucial games (Arizona State and Wisconsin) and the only time he played more than 25 minutes this season was against Ohio State, when he posted an offensive rating of 61 according to Ken Pom, his worst of the season.
- Juan Anderson showed some more promising flashes Saturday and Tuesday. The Oakland native who announced he would transfer just eight months ago was Marquette's highest rated offensive player Saturday at 166. Anderson scored 11 points and went 3-for-4 from deep. Although he didn't score in the second half, he stuffed the stat sheet, picking up four rebounds, five assists and five steals. His length continued to pose problems for Ball State Tuesday, as he set a career-high with six pilfers. He broke double figures again with ten points and added five more rebounds. Anderson's steady improvement could majorly benefit Marquette heading into Big East play.
- Freshmen Deonte Burton and JaJuan Johnson continued their improvement in the blowout victories. Both were extremely efficient Saturday, scoring 10 points apiece and combining to shoot 10-for-15 from the field. Each scored 12 on Tuesday, and although their shooting number dipped a bit, their role in Marquette's success at the offensive end is flourishing.
- Chris Otule typically posts great field goal percentage numbers because he rarely takes a shot outside the paint. However, free throw shooting has never been his strength. Until now? In his last three games, Otule has converted 12 of his 16 free throw attempts. He's also getting to the line a lot more than Davante Gardner lately, who's attempted just five free throws in that same span. If Otule can find a decent stroke at the line, he could transform what Marquette does in the post offensively.
- Marquette faces New Mexico Saturday night in Las Vegas in its last important game before conference play begins. The Golden Eagles are still without a marquee non-conference win, and an almost road win against one of the best non-power conference teams in the country could give them just that.