Sunday, January 6, 2019

Green's five takeaways from No. 16 Marquette's 70-52 win over Xavier

Photo Credit: Dylan Buell- Getty Images

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

The No. 16 Marquette Golden Eagles (12-3, 1-1 Big East) bounced back in style with a 70-52 win over the Xavier Musketeers (9-7, 1-2 Big East) at Fiserv Forum. Here are my five things to take away from Milwaukee.

1) The Sacar Anim show:

On most nights, Markus Howard would carry the offensive load for Marquette, but Sacar Anim stepped up with a season-high 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting in the win.

Anim provided some much needed consistency in terms of ball handling and protection, which is something Golden Eagles coach Steve Wojciechowski wants to see on a more consistent basis.

“Sacar has had his moments where has played really well for us,” Wojciechowski said. “He’s at his best when he is driving and creating for himself. When you get in the paint, he can find people and for us to be at our best, we need him to do that. We are not a great ballhandling team, so his decision-making is really important to our group.”

2) Xavier’s struggles from the field:

The Musketeers’ first half woes were mostly attributed to numerous missed free throw attempts on the front end of one-and-one opportunities.

Despite finishing with 17-of-26 free throws, the Musketeers shot 17-of-54 (31.5 percent) from the field, highlighted by one made three-pointer.

“When you miss free throws and shots, it is hard to win. We missed ten free throws in the first half and gave Markus Howard a few open three-pointers, which was why we couldn’t get going,” Xavier forward Naji Marshall said.

Wojciechowski credited MU’s defense, but recognized Xavier was not on top of its game on Sunday.

“I like to think it was all our defense, but they had shots they would normally make,” Wojciechowski said on Xavier’s shooting. “Over the course of 40 minutes, our defense was very sound and physical.”

3) All-Around Howard:

Fresh off a season-low eight points at St. John’s, Marquette’s Markus Howard looked to bounce back in a major way. The league’s leading scorer did so, but in different facets with a 26-point, eight-assist and four-rebound effort.

A highlight of Howard’s eight assists came early in the second half off a rebound as he delivered a precise, deep pass to a wide open Anim towards the paint for the dunk.

Wojciechowski recognizes how special Howard has been over the last two-plus seasons.

“Markus will see everything and is as good of guard as there is in the United States and wouldn’t trade him for anyone,” Wojciechowski said. “I thought Markus passed the ball really well today and had eight assists and to be quite frank, it could have been 14.”

4) ToMORROW came today:

Theo John picked up his fourth foul picked up at the 16:24 mark of the second half, which gave Ed Morrow extended minutes off the bench and delivered.

Points are not everything and despite going scoreless on 0-of-6 from the field, Morrow delivered with a team-high 10 rebounds and provided stability in the paint, which kept Xavier from pulling to within single digits.

“Ed provided us with a physical presence in the second half on the defensive end,” Wojciechowski said. “He made it really tough for [Xavier] to score in the paint and they are a team that does a great job normally.”

5) Scruggs and Marshall’s effort:

Despite fouling out at the 3:49 mark in the second half, Paul Scruggs finished with his first career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds in defeat.

Naji Marshall scored a team-high 21, but focused on not showing up and did not give any excuses as Georgetown looms on Jan. 9 at the Cintas Center.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, we play Georgetown next and they are going to try and beat us just as bad,” Marshall said. “We have to get back to practice and be ready for Wednesday.”