When Steve Wojciechowski secured the commitment of elite recruit Henry Ellenson, it was widely regarded as a program-altering moment for Marquette.
Little did we know at the time that Wojciechowski, whose freshman class in his first season was gutted by Buzz Williams’ departure, would have Williams to thank for bringing out the best in his crown jewel recruit. That’s because just about three months before he left Milwaukee for Blacksburg, Williams convinced Luke Fischer to transfer to Marquette after a frustrating first semester at Indiana.
Two years later, Ellenson and Fischer form the most fearsome frontcourt in the Big East.
Ellenson and Fischer lead the Golden Eagles in every facet of the game. They are the team's two leading scorers, combining for more than 31 points per game. They also are the team’s two leading rebounders, combining for 18 rebounds per contest. They even complement each other on the glass, with Ellenson the superior defensive rebounder (nearly eight per game) and Fischer better on the offensive glass (top 25 in the country in OR%).
Where the pair really excels is on the defensive end. In Marquette’s most recent game against Presbyterian, each big man had four blocks for the Golden Eagles. They lead a defense that blocks more than 12 percent of its opponents two point shots.
Marquette’s team defense, anchored by the dynamic duo, is truly impressive, and it's the primary reason for the team’s early season success. The Golden Eagles lead the nation with the lowest ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts allowed, one of the all important four factors created by Ken Pomeroy.
A lot of that stellar ratio has come as a result of Ellenson and especially Fischer learning to defend effectively without fouling. Ellenson had 14 fouls in the first five games and fouled out once, while Fischer had 17 fouls and fouled out twice in the same span. In the seven games since, Ellenson has committed 10 fouls to Fischer’s 11.
Marquette’s effective field goal defense, probably the most important factor of Pomeroy’s four, is also quite stellar, at 44.6, good for 31st in the country. Unsurprisingly, Marquette’s field goal percentage defense gets even better when only accounting for two-point field goals, where Ellenson and Fischer do their most damage. While opponents shoot a so-so 31 percent from deep against Marquette, they shoot just 43 percent on two-pointers, which ranks 39th lowest nationally.
And though they form a formidable two-man unit, Ellenson and Fischer have their different quirks that make them well-rounded and effective.
For Ellenson, it’s his underrated passing ability. While his outside shot makes him unique from a lot of 6-foot-10 players, he’s yet to establish consistency with it. He has shown his flair for dramatic full court outlet passes however, and has a remarkably-high assist rate (16.7) for a big man that uses more possessions than any other teammate.
Fischer’s greatest asset is his shooting accuracy around the rim. He ranks in the 60s nationally with his 63 percent effective field goal rate and 65.5 percent true shooting percentage, and that’s after a poor shooting performance against Presbyterian.
Simply put, not many teams nationwide have two big men of Ellenson and Fischer’s caliber on their rosters. As Marquette opens up Big East play Wednesday against Seton Hall, look for everything to run through the bigs as usual.