In case you hadn’t heard, Marquette has this kid, Markus Howard. He’s not old enough to vote. He’s incredibly humble and gives great interviews. He’s selfless, putting all of the credit on teammates and coaches. He’s not even six feet tall in a game dominated by giants among men.
Oh, and he went for 34 points on 11-18 shooting, including being 9-12 from beyond the arc, in a big win for his Golden Eagles, putting away the Xavier Musketeers, 83-61, in Milwaukee.
Xavier, to their credit, were very hamstrung by injuries, with star guards Edmond Sumner (ACL, out for the year) and Trevon Bluiett (ankle, was a game-time decision and didn’t play today) both unavailable. The thin rotation, however, was not the only issue. Xavier had the misfortune to start out with two quick technicals; one on RaShid Gaston, one on Chris Mack, and then Marquette got hot in a hurry, taking a 5-2 lead and pushing it out to 21-2 behind everything working on offense: Howard threes, Andrew Rowsey threes, a Haanif Cheatham jumper, and both Luke Fischer and surprise starter Matt Heldt getting tough interior buckets.
Xavier managed to right the ship for the most part in the first half after the slow start, going into half down 42-30, even with ten turnovers and leading the rebounding stats.
However, they would never be able to get the lead to within single digits. And then the terror that was Markus Howard happened, nabbing six threes in the second half.
The second half got weird. The refs showed up and tried to steal the spotlight (you know, like some refs like to do). They called the two technicals in the first half after a poor call on Gaston setting an offensive screen. They called 21 fouls in total in the first half ALONE (11 on Marquette, 10 on Xavier). Katin Reinhardt picked up a technical for Marquette and Tyrique Jones got one for Xavier. And then, in the second half, Marquette had two players foul out (Fischer and Heldt) on their way to 12 personal fouls in the half. Xavier nabbed nine fouls themselves, but were hamstrung even moreso by the fact that, somehow, Gaston picked up a second technical foul (as did Marquette’s Duane Wilson on the same play, for what looked like some jawing back and forth) and was therefore ejected from the game. Gaston, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, had been the biggest thorn in Marquette’s side until his ejection. The officiating certainly left something to be desired. Not to discount how well Marquette played (or that Xavier struggled) of course, but the officials certainly bogged the game down and left fans on both sides scratching their heads.
While Howard’s 34 far and away lead the entire pack, the Golden Eagles had two more players (Andrew Rowsey with 18, Haanif Cheatham with 15) in double figures, and won the rebounding battle 41 to 34 (which is an anomaly for this Marquette team). Xavier got 4 different players contributing double digits (Gaston - 12, O’Mara - 14, Jones - 13, Gates - 11), but had its two starters at the guard spot combine to go 3-21 from the floor (Goodin was 0-7 even though he contributed 8 assists before fouling out, Macura was 3-14). Xavier also managed to only make 2 threes in 17 attempts (Marquette, backed by Howard’s 9 threes, made 13 of 36 attempts).
The season must go on, however. Marquette, having gotten a much-needed win, needs to prepare for St. John’s on Tuesday, a team they lost to in the reverse fixture in New York. Xavier gets to travel to Seton Hall on Wednesday looking to sweep the Pirates on the season.
- Markus. Howard. That is all.
- Malcolm Bernard went down today for the Musketeers. He eventually came back and played in the second half, but Xavier’s already thin rotation cannot stand any more losses. That was horrifying to watch and I’m glad that he came out all right in the in.
- Wojo changed up the starters for the first time in a while for Marquette, and it seemed to pay off. Seldom-used big man Matt Heldt started and contributed 6 points and a slew of tough rebounds and defense, including drawing a charge and nabbing a block and a steal. Wojo also started with junior Duane Wilson, who added hustle and defensive energy. He had Rowsey and Howard paired in the backcourt, a combo that, if both click, is lethal. It will be interesting to see what he does for St. John’s on Tuesday.
- Big shoutout to Sean O’Mara for a career high in points AND being a consistent threat for an inconsistent offense tonight. With Xavier’s rotation that thin they’ll need his minutes to count, and he made them count as much as he could tonight.