By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Feb 12, 2015 at 1:06 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Just minutes into Tuesday night’s game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Marquette University center Luke Fischer’s powder blue jersey began to darken as he worked from block to block, set screens for his guards, and had his lower back softened like a prone sparring partner by Xavier centers Matt Stainbrook (270 pounds) and Sean O’Mara (247 pounds).

Marquette tried to get their 6-foot, 11-inch sophomore center going early inside against the Musketeers, and it worked. Fischer opened the game with a short jumper in the paint. He procured a steal that led to a Juan Anderson basket, and then scored back-to-back buckets to give Marquette an early 10-5 lead.

Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, Fischer would only score one more point the rest of the game, finishing 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-2 at the free throw line for seven points. He brought in five rebounds but also committed four fouls in 31 minutes.

Part of it was the game plan Xavier used on him, especially after that quick start. To combat Fischer’s skill set, Musketeers coach Chris Mack rotated a bevy of big men on Fischer, first in man defense and then in a zone.

"To me, he’s one of the best bigs in our conference," Mack sad. "He’s a young kid. He’s only going to get better and better. That was a challenge coming into the game."

The hot start and slow fade against Xavier was a familiar site for Marquette since mid-January when Fischer went from shooting 81.6 percent from the floor and averaging 13.1 points per game in his first seven games – including the Golden Eagles’ first three Big East conference games – to averaging 7.6 points on 44 percent shooting over his last nine.

Fischer scored four early points against Villanova, and finished with nine. He scored quickly against Creighton but he finished with just one basket on three shots. He’s missed layups and free throws while committing, on average, three fouls a game.

Against Xavier, as a hobbled (and heavier) Stainbrook labored out to the free throw line to guard him, Fischer didn't try to use his quickness advantage to beat him off the dribble.

Or, when Fischer found himself pushed out too far on the low post against the more nimble Jalen Reynolds, and couldn’t get around him.

After the game, Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski pursed his lips and looked at the stat sheet.

"We want Luke to be aggressive," he said. "Even if he misses. I’m OK with missed shots. I want him to make strong moves and be aggressive. Even if teams are collapsing to still try and make a play. It’d be nice to get him to the free throw line more. You look at Stainbrook and those guys getting to the line nine times. Pretty good. Pretty good. I guess he’s got to attack the basket harder."

It’s part of the learning curve for Fischer, who has not been made available to the media of late by the university to talk about his progress.

The Germantown native has now played the most games he ever has in a college season after averaging just 10 minutes per game through 13 contests with Indiana last year.

"Luke’s a really good player, but you look at Luke, he’s young as well," Marquette assistant coach Chris Carrawell said. "He’s a sophomore but he’s a young sophomore. He hasn’t played a lot of college basketball."

And, Carrawell noted, there were still eight games the Golden Eagles played without Fischer (and with Deonte Burton and John Dawson) that affected how the offense would truly work with him on game day.

"You can play with him in practice but it’s still different than playing with him in the game," Carawell said. "So adjusting to that, and I still don’t think we’ve adjusted 100 percent. But we’ve gotten better. But with all those different dynamics, it’s difficult. But our guys have done the best of incorporating Luke and then also Luke having such a high IQ and being such a really good basketball player, just a basketball player, he’s going to help that transition along as well."

On top of that, Fischer has been forced to log more minutes and serve as the sole true post presence, offensively and defensively, for the Golden Eagles.

And, over the last two games, defenses have focused even more on the big man with senior guard Matt Carlino out with injury, further limiting Marquette’s offensive ability.

But, they’re working on it: "Figuring out where he likes the ball, how to get him the ball in his sweet spots and stuff like that, we continue to add things in that area," Marquette assistant Brett Nelson said.

With six games remaining before the Big East tournament however, Wojciechowski hinted that now is the time for that work to start showing in games.

"We have to learn to fight better," Wojciechowski said. "It’s a great opportunity for our young players to be, to have a ton of responsibility thrust on them. Like all young guys say, I need to play. OK. You got it. You got it now. What are we going to do with it?"

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.