The beginning of the season was a disaster for Marquette. After losing the opener to Belmont and narrowly avoiding defeat at the hands of IUPUI, Iowa handed the Golden Eagles one of their most painful defeats in recent memory in an 89-61 shellacking in Milwaukee.
That caused coach Steve Wojciechowski to hit the reset button. He made the team practice outside in New York, and even took away their custom warmups, forcing them to shoot around in plain white t-shirts and navy shorts.
That move appeared to have worked for the moment, as Marquette played far and away its best game of the young season and eked out an 81-80 win over No. 22 LSU Monday. The team now has a golden opportunity to win a preseason tournament, when merely winning a game seemed too high a mountain to climb before Monday.
Make no mistake: this is Steve Wojciechowski's team. But still, the most crucial players for Marquette's success are the ones brought to Milwaukee by former head coach Buzz Williams. Specifically, consistent and polished play from Duane Wilson and Jajuan Johnson can transform Marquette from bad to mediocre in a hurry.
For the first time this season, both Wilson and Johnson clicked at the same time Monday. Sure, Wilson was erratic and took ill-advised shots, but he and Johnson both contributed 16 points after being benched for a pair of freshmen.
Johnson showed off his improved jump shot with regularity for the first time Monday as well. If you watched Johnson before this season, you know his form was a complex side-winding mess. Now he looks smoother shooting the ball and he'll have confidence going into this next game after knocking down a pair of triples Monday.
No Foul Play
Foul trouble has plagued the Golden Eagles so far this season, and even in the win Monday, they had their worst performance in that facet thus far. Of the six players to play at least 20 minutes against LSU, five had at least four fouls, including foul outs from Henry Ellenson and Sandy Cohen.
Marquette can be extremely difficult to defend and penetrate against when both Luke Fischer and Ellenson are on the floor together, playing at full speed unencumbered by foul trouble. The pair of big men compliment each other quite well, but they need to be smarter about fouling. Fischer especially has an unfortunate tendency to pick up cheap fouls reaching helplessly over opponents' backs for offensive rebounds.
If Fischer and Ellenson stay out of foul trouble, they should take it to an Arizona State front line with just one regular over 6-foot-7.
Both benches feature legendary Mike Kryzyzewski floor generals in the top spots, with Wojciechowski matching wits with new Sun Devils head man Bobby Hurley. The familiarity should add a friendly rivalry to the proceedings.
Also of note, first year Marquette assistant Stan Johnson was on Herb Sendek's staff at ASU before coming to Marquette, so his familiarity with the Sun Devils' roster could be advantageous for Marquette.