"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Three silver linings on a miserable night

OK, probably no one wants to write tonight, and maybe noone even wants to read after losing by 18. However, even in defeat, what a trio of seniors:

1) Jerel McNeal breaks scoring record,
2) Dominic James gets 9 assists to only 2 turnovers to make it 50 and 12 in last ten games, and
3) Wes Matthews ties Hansbrough with 150 free throws made

And with all that, the best MU player on the court was Lazar .

Obviously the huge news tonight is Jerel McNeal putting in his 1,776th point to break the 40-year-old scoring record, overtaking the great George Thompson's 1,773 compiled through 1969. McNeal is trying to become the first Marquette hoops player since Dwyane Wade (21.5 ppg in 2003) to top 20 points per game, and since he has scored more than 20 points in every game for almost two months, he should get there. Coming into tonight MUs offense was the 6th ranked offense in the country with 115.2 points per 100 trips down the court, behind only UNC, Oklahoma, UCLA, and Pitt - all ranked in the Top 6 - and Utah State, which plays much lighter competition.

While Marquette is in a two-game rut, we won't know if we are witnessing a team that peaked early OR, if we are just going through the rut that almost every team (remember the three-game losing streak at home in 1977) goes through.

While our defense certainly has looked soft for stretches in most games and there were easy shots around the basket tonight, Villanova also continued what they started against Syracuse by hitting from everywhere on the court.

In addition to McNeal, who most are agreeing would be named MVP of the brutal 16-team Big East right now, MU is dominating in two of the other four ways you win games:

FIRST, GETTING TO THE LINE AND MAKING FREETHROWS. No "BCS" player this year has made more freethrows this year than Wesley Matthews, who with a 4 of 6 tonight is now at 150 of 181 from the line, catching UNC national player-of-the-year Tyler Hansbrough (150-178). All together, Marquette hits 47.3 free throws for every 100 field goals they attempt, meaning the only two BCS teams that get to the line better are the top two teams in the country, UConn and Oklahoma. Tonight we made only 15 while taking 57 field goals - I'd argue we didn't get a bunch of calls we should have on drives, but I'm biased.

SECOND, AVOIDING TURNOVERS. Point Guard Dominic James has dished out 50 assists while turning the ball over only 12 times in the last 10 games. A great point guard may have twice the assists as turnovers, but James' nine assists to only two turnovers tonight gives him an amazing 4.2-to-1 since the Big East opener. Can you imagine what his ratio would be if he had someone like Cunningham underneath to consistently catch his passes and lay them in? Also, a nice in control 6 of 11 shooting. Outside of the four missed free throws, can't ask for much more from your point guard.

Marquette is one of the better teams in the other two factors that determine games, shooting percentage and offensive rebounds, despite averaging only 6-foot-3 1/2, but it is MUs ability to drive past opponents to get to the line and not turn the ball over that has them 20-4 and has them in the top 4 in the 16-team Big East.

When you consider Jerel's MVP season, Dominic's assists to turnovers, and Wes' ability to get to the line, it's no wonder several commentators, including Bobby Knight and Dick Vitale, have called Marquette's three guards the best trio of guards in the country.

Maybe in the end the defense won't be tough enough, and MU will prove too small and have too few players to make the big run, but I'm buying low right now and think in the end Marquette will solve the issues of the past two games and take over. Just like Al did in 1977. And tonight we shot exceptionally well with a 58% effective field goal percentage. The question is how much of Nova's ungodly 65% was bad defense and how much was them just being unconscious for the 2nd game. We can't grab only 4 offensive rebounds, but other than than, we did enough good things that I think we just caught an incredibly hot team that would have rolled anyone tonight.

Go Marquette!


HoopsMalone said...

I like the positive attitude. Let's see Villanova hit at will again/not at the Pavillion. 9-2 is a great spot to be in.

HoopsMalone said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm a little tired of watching two Marquette players gain position to rebound, go up together, and then knock the ball into the hands of an opposing player.

I'm also tired of missed free throws.

Smoove said...

There is no better empirical measure of a team's mind-set than how it plays defense. With that the barometer, I'd say our GEs are day-dreaming, if not fast asleep. One hundred and two points, c'mon! Is 'Nova playing "unconscious" because MU concedes the perimeter, and plays no ball denial? No,'Nova only took what MU openly gave, which was plenty.

Oliver said...

Defense, defense, defense.

Four months ago, I expected a team that played great defense and had to score in transition because they couldn't shoot free throws, couldn't rebound, and had poor shot selection. That still holds true. They need to remember who they are and use their true strengths.

Unknown said...

Congratulations to Jerel for breaking this record, but he played a horrible game last night. Forced shots, poor decisions, etc. I agree with you that Lazar was our best player last night. I also like how Butler is coming along.

Packer Pat said...

Hey Richard.... what a shock you are negative when a guy breaks the all-time scoring record. Can any CSW's expert tell us why Buzz keeps all our starters in the game down 17 with under two minutes left. He's convinced us that he really cares and is looking out for them but with their aggressive style of play it wouldn't be crazy for one of them to get banged up anytime. He needed to clear the bench.

JohnPudner said...

Packer Pat - I do agree with you on clearing the bench. I did think Buzz was at least getting the guys at least a short breather during the game instead of having them play every second like at USF, and using his timeouts this time even though the adjustments didn't slow Nova, but at least the last two minutes I would have loved to see him stick Otule, Fulce, Hazel, Acker and Cube or somebody and just let them run for two minutes.

Unknown said...

We actually shot well, but 'Nova was superhuman last night. The worst thing about this game was it being on national T.V. It always seems to me MU tanks when the spotlight is on them. For once I'd like a a-whooping of a team while we're on T.V. We have 4 more chances, lets make it happen. Also, I think we can maybe lose 1 more road game if we want to keep in consideration for a #2 seed in the NCAA's.

Maria Vee said...

I was at the gawd-awful Pavillion. Talk about home field advantage. You put a nice positive spin on a sad night for us MU fans in scattered attendance. We never knew about McNeal's record. Would have been nice to have it acknowledged, as otherwise, he had a terrible game. Good to know about our FG % and free throws - it seemed like we were missing everything, since Nova just could not miss!