Shortly before Saturday’s game against Kansas State, Marquette’s official Twitter account released a bit of troubling information. Markus Howard and Steve Wojciechowski were under the weather, and Joey Hauser was dealing with a bad ankle.
#mubb Joey Hauser (ankle) and Markus Howard (illness) have both missed practice last two days, but are expected to start vs. K-State. Coach Wojo also under the weather.— MarquetteMBB (@MarquetteMBB) December 1, 2018
Combine that news with the general sense of dread and pessimism (follow Sam Newberry) that Marquette fans seem to typically exude, and it seemed like it could very well be a long day for the Golden Eagles.
For a while, it seemed like it might be. It was a back and forth rockfight type of contest with both sides trading buckets and the lead. With 8:31 to go in the first half and the Wildcats up by three points, Barry Brown was called for a foul on Markus Howard. Brown disagreed with the call and ran away from the play and was called for a technical foul by Jamie Luckie, a referee who had a very tough and bad day. Brown suddenly had three fouls on the day and Kansas State’s second-leading scorer hit the bench. Howard made all four free throws to put Marquette up 21-20, and they never looked back. Howard would follow up with a three and then a three-point play for a solo 10-0 run that put Marquette up 27-20. He would finish the first half with 26 points and 11-12 from the free throw line, as the Golden Eagles took a 44-33 lead into the break.
The immediate thought was to wonder of Howard would tie his career-high of 52, set last season against Providence. He didn’t, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Howard finished the night with 45 points on 11-17 shooting and a Marquette-record 19-21 free throws. It was his second career 40+ point game along with the aforementioned game against Providence, as he continues to be an offensive force for the Golden Eagles. Howard also gave Kansas State leading scorer Dean Wade fits, causing him to foul out after just 11 points and 27 minutes of action.
For Marquette to play a complete 40 minutes and win 83-71 against a top 15 team is a huge step in the right direction for the Golden Eages. Even looking past Howard’s 45, Sacar Anim had 16, and everyone else filled a vital role either rebounding, assisting, or playing strong defense. With the schedule set up for more good wins throughout the month (Wisconsin and Buffalo), Marquette needs to continue to do what they did Saturday for as long as it works.